Was it clout that got Michael Jordan’s son Marcus a coveted spot at Whitney Young Magnet High School this fall? It sure seemed like favorable treatment when the news was announced, given how hard it is to get into supercompetitive schools like Whitney Young—plus the fact that the Jordans have long lived on the North Shore, not in Chicago.

But Marcus’s mother, Juanita, recently bought a place in the city. And it turns out there are other ways to get into elite public schools; the Jordans took advantage of one of the least noticed: transferring after the ninth grade. “It’s a whole different process,” says Young’s principal, Joyce Kenner. “It’s not nearly as competitive.”

As a rule, prospective ninth graders must take a citywide entrance exam and are rated on a 1,000-point scale based on grades, an admissions test, and prior standardized test scores. But transfers after ninth grade are often admitted simply at the school’s discretion. Marcus Jordan, who transferred from Loyola Academy and is a junior this year, got in simply by submitting an application, interviewing with Kenner and a few other educators, and having a “B” grade-point average “or close,” says Kenner. According to Kenner, about 150 kids sought the 14 or so transfer spots available in Young’s 10th and 11th grades. It certainly didn’t hurt that Air Jordan’s heir was a star hoopster: The 6’3″ guard averaged 8.3 points per game last year as a sophomore at Loyola and should be a standout this season with the Dolphins.