Bloomington, Ind. – As the Hoosiers gear up for the start of the regular season, things are slowing down for Eric Gordon.
After a couple of months hearing the whispers of awestruck students around campus, the 6'4", 215-pound freshman phenom is growing accustomed to life as an IU student.
Or perhaps it's better to say those around campus are getting used to being around him.
"I would say the first two or three weeks everyone was talking and pointing," Gordon said. "You could hear people talk about me when I walked by. (But) it's calmed down."
It's easy to understand why Gordon's presence was producing plenty of double takes. After all, he was one of the top handful of players in the 2007 recruiting class, someone who many analysts thought could have bolted straight for the NBA if it wasn't for the league's new age restriction. He possesses a deft stroke from behind the 3-point arc, the ability to beat most off the dribble and attack the rim, and a 215-pound frame that's all but unheard of for an 18-year-old newcomer.
Upon his arrival Gordon isn't expected to simply fit in and contribute on the ninth-ranked Hoosiers. Instead, he is expected to be of the Big Ten's premiere scorers, someone who will team with D.J. White to give Indiana one of the country's best inside-outside combinations.
Despite that attention and expectation, Gordon doesn't outwardly appear to be either intimidated or egotistical. Despite seeing plenty of storefronts selling shirts with "Got Gordon" emblazoned across the chest, the Indianapolis, Ind., native remains humble and soft-spoken, characteristics that belie his status around campus.
"Credit for that goes to his moth and father," said IU Coach Kelvin Sampson. "He is very modest, very humble. He works at the same pace everyday. He doesn't have a lot of highs and lows."
Gordon concedes that his parents have had a big impact on him in that regard. There are plenty of examples for him to see where high-profile athletes let their status influence how they act around others, but Gordon hasn't succumbed to that idea.
"You'll see a lot of professionals in the NBA that some guys might act ignorant," Gordon said. "Some do bad things to other people. But, I've been just taught to treat people with respect. Down the line, they might…talk about you in the future, and they'd say he's a better person than just playing basketball."
That will likely be the case with Gordon, but there's plenty of talent to talk about on the basketball court as well. Gordon made his debut in an IU uniform Sunday, scoring 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He was forced to depart briefly after an errant elbow resulted in a chipped tooth, but he returned with a mouth guard and has since had his dental matters resolved.
He'll be back on the floor Saturday night when the Hoosiers take on Sampson's alma mater, UNC-Pembroke, in their final exhibition before Monday's season opener against Chattanooga.
While Gordon gets most of his attention for his array of offensive skills he also figures to be a key to the team's defensive success as well. Sampson's teams always start with defense, and Gordon will be an integral part in all of IU's defensive gameplans.
"Coach is expecting me to guard the majority of the best players on other teams," Gordon said.
Gordon's teammate, D.J. White, is among those who thinks he'll be able to fill that role well.
"Of course he brings his offensive talents, but also his defensive ball pressure and athleticism being in the passing lanes – he brings a lot to us offensively and defensively."
Gordon brings more than that – he also brings that attitude that makes him a great fit amongst teammates, with fans, and anyone else involved with the basketball program. That as much as anything is why Sampson thinks big things are on horizon for the Hoosier freshman.
"When you have a person of his ability level and his attitude, that is when you start getting into the ‘special' stratosphere," Sampson said. "The sky is the limit for that young man because of his attitude, his humbleness."
Gordon Brings More Than Offense, Defense
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