Outstanding Freshman Gordon Leads Hoosiers

RALEIGH, N.C. — Eric Gordon darted to the corner, caught a pass from an Indiana assistant coach and drained a 3-pointer with only a flick of his wrist.

The 19-year-old freshman made it look effortless.

A few minutes later, Gordon got his hands on a pass and sank another 3-pointer, this time from NBA range. The shot looked routine like he was doing nothing more than shaving his face or unlocking his front door.

As he has shown during his spectacular freshman season, things like hitting big baskets and blocking out distractions have come easily for Gordon. Some might argue too easily.

"Has he met my expectations?" Indiana interim coach Dan Dakich said during a news conference before a team shoot-around Thursday afternoon. "He's exceeded my expectations."

Gordon has left little doubt over the past few months that he belongs in the same company as other freshman sensations like Kansas State's Michael Beasley and Southern California's O.J. Mayo.

Gordon led the Big Ten in scoring and ranks 18th nationally (21.3 points per game), thanks to his ability to attack the basket, get to the free-throw line and knock down shots from anywhere on the court.

He's got NBA range, which could come in handy if he decides to leave Indiana after this season to be a likely top 10 pick, as many believe. But he still has the NCAA Tournament left to play.

"I think I had a good freshman year, and obviously down the end of the stretch, I haven't shot that well," Gordon said. "But overall, I think I did pretty good. I'm just worried about our team's success."

Unfortunately for Arkansas, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound shooting guard hasn't left for the NBA just yet.

The Razorbacks will get their first look at Gordon when they face Indiana at 8:40 p.m. today in an opening-round game in the RBC Center. And the outcome could be decided by how well Arkansas' backcourt can contain the Big Ten's runaway choice for freshman of the year.

"Eric, he's been having a phenomenal freshman year, one to remember definitely," Arkansas backup point guard Stefan Welsh. "I feel like he's the engine that makes (the Hoosiers) go, so we're going to put in the game plan for him, try to slow him down. We'll see what happens."

Gordon has received comparisons to former Indiana great Isiah Thomas, but Dakich said his freshman phenom reminds him of two other NBA All-Stars: Mitch Richmond and Dwyane Wade.

Gordon announced his arrival to the nation by draining seven 3-pointers and scoring a season-high 33 points in his collegiate debut against Chattanooga on Nov. 12. He's no secret anymore.

Beasley (26.5 ppg.) is the only freshman playing in the NCAA Tournament who's averaging more points than Gordon. And despite a recent shooting slump, Gordon has set the Big Ten freshman scoring record with 661 points.

"I was very happy that he decided to come here," Indiana forward D.J. White said of Gordon.

The former Mr. Basketball has ignored the hype that followed him to Indiana and blocked out the boos that could be heard during a Feb. 7 double-overtime win at Illinois, the school Gordon originally committed to in 2005.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Gordon has continued to put up big numbers despite the distractions that followed Kelvin Sampson's highly publicized resignation as the Hoosiers' coach on Feb. 22.

"Eric is aware of his importance to the team, not only shooting the basketball and scoring the basketball," Dakich said, "but defending the other team's best opponent essentially for 40 minutes, rebounding, cooking, cleaning and whatever else we want him to do."

Indiana fans wouldn't mind seeing Gordon in a Hoosiers uniform next season as well.

Several Web sites have projected the freshman going anywhere from fifth to seventh in June's NBA Draft. The assumption is that he will leave Indiana after this season, though he hasn't announced his plans for next year.

"I don't really even think about that right now," Gordon said of the NBA. "I just worry about the next coming-up game and the rest of the games in the tournament."

Eric Gordon

Class: Freshman

Position: Shooting guard

Size: 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

Hometown: Indianapolis

Notable: Gordon was named the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year after leading the conference in scoring at 21.3 points per game. He was also named a unanimous choice to the All-Big Ten first team. Gordon broke the Big Ten's freshman scoring record of 658 points, set by former Ohio State star and NBA All-Star Michael Redd in 1998. Gordon, the nation's top high school prospect last year, has scored 661 points in 32 games.

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