Jordan Walden said he's learned not to get down on himself.
His Costa Mesa High boys' basketball coach, Bryan Rice, taught him that.
Walden has held his head up high this season as the Mustangs are off to a 14-5 overall start. The start is the best in Rice's four seasons at the helm of his alma mater.
"He's taught me a lot," Walden said of Rice. "He was the one that told me that one [shot] has to go in sometime, so keep shooting."
All Walden really wanted before he came to Costa Mesa was a shot at life.
The odds were stacked against Walden when he moved to Costa Mesa before he entered high school 3½ years ago. He left Arizona to live with a new family, the Urmsons.
He had no other choice but to move in with his uncle Robert and aunt Debbie Urmson, and their two daughters.
Walden's mother, Kellie, didn't come with him.
"She was away, just battling life," said Walden, adding that his mother had an alcohol addiction.
Living with his father, Darrell Sherman, wasn't an option. Father and son didn't know each other well.
The last time Walden spoke to his dad was before he enrolled at Costa Mesa. Walden learned his dad had a short stint in the major leagues.
Walden almost had a stint in foster care had his uncle and aunt not intervened. At first, Walden was against living with the Urmsons.
"I wanted to be with my mom and I wanted to be in Arizona," said Walden, who realized why those two situations weren't possible.
"Coming here was for the better. It was a new beginning."
Walden said he's grateful that his uncle and aunt took him in. The closest thing Walden said he has to a father is his uncle.
Walden is the son Robert and Debbie never had.
Sports have brought Walden and Robert close together. They are years apart, but they have sports in common.
The two excelled on the football field, albeit at rival schools.
Robert was a star running back and defensive back 33 years ago, when Estancia won its first football league title.
Walden was a standout defensive back and wide receiver this past fall. He almost led the Mustangs to a league crown in the league finale against Estancia.
"I get a ribbing all the time about being on the Mesa side during the [Battle for the Bell] game," said Robert, whose alma mater beat the Mustangs, 28-14, for first place.
"I'm very proud of him. He's really come into his own as a young man."
Kellie has been able to see her son develop.
Last year, Kellie moved in with Walden and the Urmson family. Robert said Kellie is doing very well and she has a job as a waitress.
Kellie and Walden have been able to reunite.
"It's kind of weird having her back," Walden said, "but it's for the better.
"She's back to the old mom as I used to remember as a kid, more of a mom figure now, not just someone that I live with."
Kellie attends her son's games whenever she can.
She stays quiet during the action. When the game ends, that's a different story.
Kellie is a former athlete. She played softball at Estancia and Long Beach State.
"She just basically tells me everything I did wrong and what I can do to get better at it," Walden said with a smile. "[I just laugh] because she didn't really play basketball."
Walden is playing basketball and he's contributing on both ends of the court as a senior.
He is a major reason why the Mustangs are off to a fast start and are in a first-place tie at 3-0 with Laguna Beach in Orange Coast League play. Costa Mesa plays at Laguna Beach Friday night.
Walden is the team's second leading scorer, averaging 8.8 points per game.
On the defensive end is where the guard stands out the most. He usually defends the other team's top scoring threat and slows him down.
"He realizes that he doesn't have to score a lot for us to be real successful," said Rice, who considers Walden a success story. "Jordan is one of the more unique stories. There [are] a lot of kids here that come from less-than-complete homes. What's really impressive is how many of these kids that do come from homes that are non-traditional, is how well they've adjusted, and regardless of how things might be tough at home, they succeed in the classroom, they succeed on the playing field, wherever that is."
That place for Walden has been Costa Mesa. He thanks the Urmson family for being there for him through a difficult part of his life.
Born: Dec. 21, 1993
Weight: 155 pounds
Coach: Bryan Rice
Favorite food: Double-double from In-N-Out Burger
Favorite movie: "Inception"
Favorite athletic moment: "Sophomore year winning the Battle [for] the Bell."
Week in review: Walden scored in double figures in the Mustangs' Orange Coast League victories against Godinez and Saddleback.