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Sensational sophomores
Spartans' duo Means, Jordan lead GAC

NORCROSS - Ever since they met in first grade, Chaney Means and Briana Jordan have been as close as sisters.

Both have also long been a part of the very fiber of Greater Atlanta Christian - athletically and otherwise - over that time.

So, it seems inconceivable the two wouldn't become the GAC girls basketball team's backcourt leaders this season, especially after playing such a big role as freshman reserves on last year's Class AA state championship team.

Yet, that's almost what happened.

Means' father, Chan, was set to take a job in the health care and consulting industry that would have relocated the family to Nashville, Tenn., last spring.

Chaney had already begun saying her goodbyes to her friends, and was not looking forward to having to do so with her best friend Jordan, when fate intervened.

"She'd come to grips with it," Chan Means said of his daughter's coping with the pending move so he could take the position of Associate Vice President for Hospital Corporation of America. "It would've been a good career move for me, and my family was willing to move. They were glad for me, but I don't think they were very excited about it.

"The day we got the call, we were up in Nashville scouting out houses and schools."

The call Means referred to was a surprise offer to replace Mike Mitchell as coach of the GAC girls team after Mitchell had moved over to coach the boys team.

It didn't take long for him to make a decision.

"I'd been ribbing Mike when he took the boys job how I could take his place and coach Chaney," recalled Chan Means, who had served as an assistant and community coach for Mitchell's girls programs in previous seasons. "He said, 'What if you did?' And (GAC president) Dr. (David) Fincher can be pretty persuasive."

Chaney Means and Jordan were ecstatic about Chan Means' decision.

"I was mentally prepared (to move), but I'd been (with Jordan) and all the girls forever," Chaney Means said. "I was so surprised. It's been good - not only for the team, but also for my relationship with my father."

The Spartans certainly should be happy to have Means and Jordan together. Both have played a central role in GAC's 19-2 start (12-0 in Region 6-AA) that has the team ranked No. 2 in the Georgia Sports Writers Association's Class AA state rankings heading into tonight's showdown against top-ranked Wesleyan.

Jordan leads the Spartans in scoring with 14.8 points per game and is adding 3.5 steals and 3.4 assists per game.

Meanwhile, Means has posted team-high averages of 5.2 rebounds, 4 steals and 3.8 assists per game, and has chipped in 14.1 points per contest.

The pair seemed poised to take the reins of the GAC backcourt after coming off the bench to spell starters Bria Smith and Kiara Swanier as freshmen during last year's title run.

While the chemistry they've developed in their longtime friendship has played a big role in being able to step in pretty much seamlessly to their new role, there are also other factors at work.

Jordan and Means have been gifted athletically from an early age - so much so, they usually competed more with the boys than with girls their own age growing up.

"That's always the way it was on the playground," Jordan said with a laugh. "We'd always play against the boys. That made us ultra competitive. We've always wanted to win, and we've wanted to win the right way - by playing hard all the time."

Jordan's competitiveness may also come from her bloodline. As the daughter of Brian Jordan - who forged all-star careers in both major league baseball and pro football - and Pam Bryant-Jordan - a former CAA Women's Basketball Player of the Year at the University of Richmond - Briana knows what it's like to play on an elite level in athletics, as well as what it's like to be a target.

But she says the biggest lesson she's learned from her famous parents is not to run away from a challenge, but embrace it.

"It's always been a pretty competitive atmosphere around our house," Briana Jordan said. "And basketball has always been my passion ever since I've been able to hold one. Honestly, my parents have always told me to develop my own personality and to get people to know me as Briana Jordan, not Brian and Pam's daughter."

That's always how Chaney Means has known her, and like Jordan, Means has developed quite a reputation as an all-around athlete. While Jordan has also lettered in volleyball, soccer and track and field at GAC, Means has also excelled in multiple sports, earning all-county honors in softball.

And their collective abilities - in addition to their long friendship - has helped them become a formidable team in the backcourt, something they hope to continue tonight in the big game with Wesleyan.

"We've gained a lot of confidence with each other," Means said. "We play the same type of game, and we always know what we're going to do and where we're going to be on the floor.

"Everybody contributes on the floor, and we really want to play (Wesleyan), but we're going to take it like any other game. Hopefully, we can come out with a win."

SideBar: Basketball

What: GAC at Wesleyan

When: Today, 7 p.m.

Where: Wesleyan School

Noteworthy:

· Wesleyan girls are ranked No. 1 in the state and GAC is No. 2

· Wesleyan boys are ranked No. 3 in the state and GAC is No. 4