INDIANAPOLIS – As Eric Gordon announced his decision to bypass his final three years of collegiate eligibility and enter his name into the NBA Draft, IU Assistant Coach Jeff Meyer couldn’t help but reflect on the first time he saw Gordon’s skills on display.
That came five years ago, when the then-Butler assistant was watching an open gym workout at Indianapolis’ North Central H.S. Coaches from Big Ten and Atlantic-10 programs were on hand, but not to see Gordon. Instead it was eventual Indiana Mr. Basketball A.J. Ratliff and fellow Division I player Anthony Passley who were the center of attention.
That’s until Gordon walked onto the court.
“This eighth grader walks onto the court and literally dominated two consecutive games,” Meyer said, “and it was clear to me at that point in time that E.J. was way beyond his years in terms of his ability and even his mindset.
“To be able to do that as an eighth grader who had never played with these kids in a competitive environment and to walk in off the street from a middle school and go in there and basically dominate in two games, it was clear to me he was very, very special and he was very gifted beyond his years.”
Meyer wasn’t mistaken in his assessment. After an All-America high school career at North Central H.S. and a record-breaking freshman campaign at IU, that gifted player will be taking his game to the highest level, entering his name into the NBA Draft.
Gordon departs after averaging a Big Ten-best 20.9 points/game and setting a Big Ten Freshman scoring record with 669 points. He was a first-team All-Big Ten choice and a third-team AP All-American.
Gordon officially announced his intentions on Monday at the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis, a facility located literally across the street from the home he grew up in. A crowd of family, friends, former coaches and community center patrons were on hand for Gordon’s announcement, which came as a surprise to no one.
In his typical low-key style, Gordon made his decision known with a short, matter-of-fact statement of what’s next in his basketball journey.
“I will be entering my name in June for the 2008 NBA Draft,” Gordon said. “I’m doing this to compete at the highest level, not for the fame or the money.”
Gordon might not be doing it for fame or money, but there figures to be plenty of it waiting. His father, Eric Gordon, Sr., said his conversations with NBA personnel suggests his son will go anywhere from No. 3 to No. 7 in this year’s draft.
While the family hasn’t hired an agent just yet, agent Rob Pelinka was on hand for the event and Eric Sr. said Pelinka is a strong candidate to eventually represent the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
“This is a dream come true and I think he’s in the right position to reach his dream and this is what he’s going to do,” Gordon Sr. said.
Also on hand was new IU Coach Tom Crean, who cut his trip to the Final Four short to return to Bloomington. Afterwards Crean said his motivation for returning to town was to address his new team’s academic situation which he said “is not good.” But he also wanted to make the 1 ½ hour trip to Indianapolis as a sign of support for Gordon.
Crean met with Gordon last Wednesday – his first day on the job – to let him know was available if Gordon wanted to call on him.
“I just wanted to make it clear to him that I was here for him as the Indiana basketball coach,” Crean said. “I’d do as little as he wanted, I’d do as much as I could. At the same time, we were here to support him, which is why I wanted to come today.”
Crean has seen enough of Gordon’s game to feel comfortable he has a very bright future at the next level.
“I think he’s going to be outstanding,” Crean said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
“His range, his quickness, his toughness, his ability to get his own shot, all those things are there and they’ll only be enhanced as he gets older and as his game and body mature. Defensively, I think he can be outstanding as time goes on.”
Gordon developed those skills at the Jewish Community Center, under the watchful eye of his father. Now all that work is about to pay off in a big, big way.
“It’s a little bit of a relief,” Gordon Sr. said. “It’s been hard spending time in the gym, passing the basketball, taking him out to eat right after he played, traveling across the country. It’s gratifying but again it’s more of a relief than anything. It’s no easy road.”
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