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No surprise, Gordon headed to the NBA

Monday, April 7, 2008

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Eric Gordon wasn't captivated by the glamour or riches of the NBA. He just wanted to compete against the best basketball players in the world.

Next season, the 19-year-old will finally get his chance.

Indiana's freshman guard told about 100 supporters Monday in his hometown of Indianapolis that he would skip his final three college seasons to enter the June draft.

"I'm doing this to compete at the highest level, not for the fame or the money," Gordon said at the news conference. "I just had a couple of weeks to really think about this after the season, and now is the right time to do it."

Gordon's father, Eric Sr., said his son has not yet signed with an agent but that he intends to. When that happens, Gordon would not be able to withdraw his name from the draft, something his father said was never considered an option.

It was the worst kept secret in the state.

From the moment Gordon signed with the Hoosiers in November 2006, most people expected the 6-foot-4 guard with the nifty moves and NBA 3-point range to go straight to the league after one college season. Rumors continued to swirl throughout the season, and when Tom Crean was named Indiana's new coach last week, Gordon did not attend the team meeting, fanning even more speculation.

Gordon is projected to go among the top 10 picks, and Crean said he did speak with Gordon at the Final Four in San Antonio over the weekend. In the end, it was the decision Crean anticipated.

"He's an outstanding player with his range, quickness, speed and ability to create his own shot," Crean said. "I definitely think he could be outstanding defensively as he gets older, too. It's not a surprise at all."

Of course, the big question is where Gordon will end up next season, and it was a young child seated on the floor in front of Gordon who finally asked which team he'd be playing for next season.

"I don't know yet," Gordon said, laughing.

Gordon, a third-team All-American, is the second member of the heralded 2008 freshman class to declare for the draft. Those who have not yet announced whether they will turn pro include centers Michael Beasley of Kansas State and Kevin Love of UCLA, both first-team All-Americans; Memphis guard Derrick Rose, a third-team All-American; and guard O.J. Mayo of Southern Cal, who was an honorable mention choice on the All-American list.

Arizona's Jerryd Bayless has already said he would enter the draft.

But Gordon's size and skills have always helped him stand out.

"I go back to when he was in eighth grade and I go into an open gym and all these Big Ten and Pac-10 coaches are there to watch A.J. Ratliff," Hoosiers assistant coach Jeff Meyer said. "This eighth-grader walks onto the court and literally dominated the first two games. There was no question then that Eric's ability was way beyond his years."

Gordon led the Big Ten in scoring (20.9 points), set school and Big Ten freshman scoring records with 669 points, and made the third most free throws by a Hoosier in a single season (231). He also tied Mike Woodson's school record for most 30-point games by a freshman (three) and won the conference's freshman player of the year award.

After injuring his left wrist during a practice in late January, Gordon was not the same player. His shooting percentage dropped and he committed more turnovers.

Meyer acknowledged there may have been more to Gordon's late season shooting slump, which culminated in a 3-for-15 shooting performance in Indiana's first-round NCAA tournament loss to Arkansas, than injuries.

He endured a tumultuous season in which the Hoosiers' 25-8 record was overshadowed by Kelvin Sampson's midseason resignation, the promotion of Dan Dakich to interim coach and three player suspensions.

"It seems to me that the prevailing thought among (NBA) coaches is that there were a number of things going on the last couple weeks that short-circuited his drive on the court," Meyer said. "Anyone who saw him play in December, January or early February knows his skills."

Crean will now have to replace at least three starters from last season. Forwards D.J. White and Lance Stemler were both seniors, and Dakich kicked guards Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis off the team last Tuesday, just before Crean's hiring.

Crean, the Hoosiers' third coach in two months, will decide whether to reinstate Bassett, Ellis or both but said he had nothing to say about their future Monday.

He also has not started putting together a staff of assistants.

And now he must replace Gordon, too.

"I'm glad it's over, it's really a relief," Eric Gordon Sr. said. "This is what he wanted to do. I think that's what it's all about. It's a dream come true for him."



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