The vision’s roots can be traced, ironically enough, to an optometrist. And a retina. And an assist Jorden Kite never quite saw coming.
During his sophomore year at San Antonio’s Clark High School, the Incarnate Word guard recalled his mother Laurie, a software developer, having eye pains. Only when she went to see Dr. Emile Fadel, it was actually a lot worse than that. Tests and found a damaged retina in one eye and a detached one in the other.
“You have to go into surgery,” Fadel said.
“But I have to fly out (for a project),” she replied.
“No, you need surgery,” he said.
Fadel won the argument, and good thing. The next day, a specialist was recommended, and a procedure was scheduled that might have saved Laurie’s sight.
“And they kind of hid it from me because they didn’t want me to be affected by it,” recalled Kite, whose Cardinals host Southland Conference leader Stephen F. Austin Monday night on ASN.
“After the surgery, I went in and she couldn’t even see me. That was pretty tough. I was just blessed (that) she was able to heal from it and maintain her vision and still see today after all that.”
Lots of little moments, good moments, fun moments, teaching moments, have come and gone in the years since. But for whatever reason, Jorden can kind of always go back to that one, go back and underline it as when he decided to:
- Pay it forward.
- Pursue a career in eye care.
“Originally, I was going into dental stuff,” the shooting guard said. “After that happened, I realized that there were other things out there. Just the fact that (Fadel) saved her vision, that factored in a lot.”
He’s now a freshman in UIW’s vision science program, an optometrist in training himself. And there’s been more time for reflection in Kite’s world than he’d planned, thanks to a preseason foot injury that forced him to sit out his first collegiate season rather than risk a stress fracture.
“All I can do is lift,” said the 6-3 guard, who was cleared to start shooting again a few weeks ago. “It affects you emotionally and physically, which is pretty tough to deal with. But I’m trying to get better, trying to get clear, trying to get healthy. I’m trying to take my time and whatever happens, happens.”
Simple gifts. Small victories. He’s relishing the chance to play again with his brother, Jerred, a junior forward on the Cardinals’ roster. And looking forward to this summer, when he’s hoping to serve an internship with — who else? — Dr. Fadel.
“That’s the reason why I went into optometry,” Kite said. “Because if it wasn’t for her optometrist, she wouldn’t be able to see anything.”
Jorden sees better than most, especially when it comes to the big picture. A few months before his freshman season with Incarnate, Kite and some peers at other San Antonio high schools — including Jordan Murphy, now at Minnesota — had played pickup ball at St. George Episcopal School, where Jorden’s father, Raymond, is athletic director. One conversation led to another, which then led to a project: Why not team up to raise money for a good cause?
“About 30 of us would have open gym, two games a week,” Kite recalled. “We did it for about two months. After the first month we did it, we realized that we had something special and we wanted to give back before we all go on our separate ways, whether we find ourselves in college or playing professionally or whatever happens.”
With St. George’s facilities at their disposal, the group decided to conduct a basketball clinic for local kids between the third and eighth grades, with the proceeds going to not just one good cause, but two great ones — helping to defray medical expenses for a pair of local teens, Kaylee Carew and Ashley Roper.
The daughter of Lance Carew, a local AAU coach, Kaylee was battling leukemia; Roper, whom Kite had known since she was a fifth-grader, was coping with a heart condition known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
“Very nice people,” said Kite, who has talked with some peers in the area about another round of camps before the fall, if schedules line up. “It’s just tough to see tough things happen to people who are so good.”
From two clinics, the players raised more than $1,000 for the pair. Kaylee passed away in December; Roper is a freshman at Baylor.
“She’s better,” Kite said of Roper. “We still talk every once in a while. And she’s super-thankful that we were able to do that for her.
“It’s kind of special. I feel I was able to have a huge impact on two people’s lives. I still think about it. I think about Kaylee … she’s in a better place now. But it was good to impact both those people.”
All it took was a vision. And funny how even the smallest ones can bring more than enough light.