Eric Gordon is a self-proclaimed “Indiana guy,” born and raised in Indianapolis. He grew up playing pickup ball at the Jewish Community Center across the street from his home. The electrifying shooting guard went on to earn the title of “Mr. Basketball” during his senior year at North Central High School.
So it should be no surprise that the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft proudly played for the University of Indiana. Gordon had one season as a Hoosier, but only after a contentious recruiting battle between the universities of Illinois and Indiana.
“At first I kept everything simple—I would just focus on school and basketball,” says Gordon when asked how he handled the early stages of the recruiting process. Late in 2005, he made an early verbal commitment to play for Bruce Weber at the University of Illinois, despite interest from Duke and Notre Dame.
At the time, some reporters speculated that Gordon wasn’t interested in playing under Mike Davis, then coach of the Hoosiers. And when Davis announced his intention to resign after the 2005-06 season, rumors swirled that Gordon would renege on his verbal commitment to the Illini and play for Indiana’s new hire, Kelvin Sampson. Coach Sampson’s subsequent hiring of Jeff Meyer, a long-time family friend who had coached Gordon’s father in college, increased speculation that Gordon would sign a letter of intent with Indiana.
The rumor mill continued grinding through the summer of 2006 and into September, when Gordon and his fellow top five recruit Derrick Rose made an unofficial visit to Indiana and scrimmaged against the current roster. Six weeks later, Gordon’s father announced that his son had changed his mind and would commit to Indiana.
After Gordon signed a National Letter of Intent, drama flared like an afternoon soap opera. The Illini went into the 2007 season without their star shooting guard, angering their fans and alumni. Coaches across the NCAA criticized Sampson and Weber for not communicating regarding Gordon’s recruitment. Once the season began, a rivalry between the Illini and Hoosiers rekindled, thanks in large part to Gordon’s recruiting saga.
It was a long process for Gordon to realize where he wanted to end up. “It’s all about where you’re comfortable,” he says, recalling the events of 2006. “I ended up in Indiana, where I was comfortable with the coaching staff.” Your recruiting experience will no doubt differ from Gordon’s, but his advice to attend the college where you will feel most comfortable is definitely worth considering.
Elite athletes attract national media attention regardless of their actions. Asked how he dealt with the constant scrutiny during his recruiting battle, Gordon says he simply didn’t think about what the media would say, just taking it as a compliment that they were paying attention. “If you want to be a good player, you always work on and strive for different things and to be better. To be looked at nationally is also a good thing,” he says.
Looking back, Gordon is proud of his decision to become a Hoosier. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and made third team All-American, averaging 20.9 points per game. Although he no longer plays for Indiana, Gordon continues to represent Hoosier nation as one of the NBA’s class acts. Last year, he lit up scoreboards for the Los Angeles Clippers and helped the USA Men’s National Team grab gold at the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey.