Circle City Classic: Gordon Delivers

With hundreds of orange-clad Illinois fans in attendance, the stage was set for a big time performance. Would it be Derrick Rose or Eric Gordon? That question was answered when one guard intercepted two passes and flushed down a pair of thunderous dunks.

Sometimes you're just happy to be there. You sit in the stands watching outstanding basketball and recognize the moment. It's when all the bad games you watch during a year don't matter because you're just happy to be in the gym. Time served sometimes pays big dividends.

On Saturday night in Indianapolis, a capacity crowd of over 6,000 shared a moment. Eric Gordon, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard out of North Central High, stole the show in a big way.

Two of's Top 10 players in the Class of 2007 were in the building on the same court. No. 7 Derrick Rose against No. 10 Gordon. One already a member of Illini nation, the other the potential final piece to Bruce Weber's dream backcourt.

Gordon was sailing along in the first half with a smooth 20 points. Known for his ability to rip the cords, he wasn't even having a particularly smooth day from the perimeter while amassing his total. Still, he was looking good, his team was winning and the 500 or so Illinois fans in the stands were quite pleased to have a pledge from him.

Meanwhile, Rose was mysteriously playing off the ball and struggling to find his shot and rhythm. Still, in what was a subpar performance, he exploded a few times off the bounce and above the rim, giving you a taste of a few of the attributes that other guards in his class don't have. However, in this contest, it was beginning to appear as though Rose would have to defer to Gordon.

And then it happened.

Gordon – literally – took off for two of the most impressive plays of the season and they happened back-to-back. Gordon, playing the passing lanes like a Colts defensive back, stole a ball at midcourt and raced in for a standing ovation style dunk.

In what seemed like just seconds later and what appeared to be a replay of the midcourt steal, culminated with another poster-quality thunderous throw down.

"Honestly, I've never seen a guard like that in person. I've been coaching 35 years. He jumped over everyone."

Clearly North Central coach Doug Mitchell was impressed. North Central held on for the win (and it was closer than it needed to be) and Gordon stated his case as one of the elite players (not shooting guards) in the Class of 2007.

This game was reason No. 1 why you watch basketball year round and not just in the summer or solely in the winter. Eric Gordon, already one of the best prospects in America, just announced that he's taken his game to another level.

Too many guys slide by year to year on their reputations. Too many good players don't improve. This guy is making strides and he's not done. When asked how much Gordon has improved with each season, Mitchell was concise and brief.

"Lots. Lots. Lots. Every year he's gotten better because he works so hard."

When the final stats were passed around Gordon settled up with 32 points (13-20 FG, 1-6 3s), 4 boards and 5 dimes. Rose, who went through one of his driest offensive spells of his career, finished with 6 points (2-11 fg), 6 assists and 9 turnovers. Toss in the fact he didn't get a touch with under a minute to go and this one gets left on the cutting room floor when its time to create his personal highlight reel (which is already laced with big time efforts by the way).

Now Eric Gordon on the other hand … he's got some footage to begin editing.

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