Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
By BRIAN FITZSIMMONSSpecial to ZAGSBLOGSPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Did Blake Griffin compete at the 2013 Spalding Hoophall Classic?
No, that was Aaron Gordon, a high school senior who simply laughs off the comparison.
“No, no,” he cracked, “sorry, Blake.”
It’d be easy to mistake the two, however, considering the way Gordon was flying over opponents and flushing some entertaining dunks that livened up a packed crowd at Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College on Monday afternoon. Perhaps that’s why scouts shouldn’t judge the 6-foot-8 freakishly athletic wing by just the calculus, but by his impact on the event and how he took over a crowd in an otherwise yawner of a contest.
Gordon, one of the top prospects in the country who hasn’t made a college choice, scored 27 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in Archbishop Mitty’s (Calif.) 81-46 blowout loss to Lone Peak (Utah).
No, the box score wasn’t littered with typos. Gordon actually accounted for nearly 60 percent of the San Jose school’s total offensive output against a scrappy, sharp-shooting Lone Peak team, which spent the past week ranked No. 5 in the USA Today poll.
With one minute remaining, Gordon — who threw down three alley-oops in 24 minutes — was summoned to the bench for the day and promptly received a large ovation from fans in attendance. Many appreciated his fiery attitude and positive clapping, even when his team was down in the latter portion of the fourth quarter.
“That’s just his makeup,” Monarchs coach Tim Kennedy said. “He’s a total competitor, and it doesn’t matter what the score is. He’s 100 percent all the time, but that’s what makes him special.”
Aside from the lean forward, Huntington Prep’s (W.V.) Andrew Wiggins, Prestonwood Christian Academy’s (Texas) Julius Randle, Pope John’s (N.J.) Jermaine Lawrence and Kimball’s (Texas) Keith Frazier are undecided top-20 players.
Gordon is down to Kentucky, Arizona and Washington. When he came back from his weekend official visit to Kentucky in mid-November, he was still targeting a spring signing, his AAU coach told SNY.tv. Joining the Wildcats would be interesting, especially since John Calipari has landed multiple commitments from top-tier prospects already.
“In college, I’m not looking to fit in. I’m looking to stand out,” Gordon said. “But even with all the recruits, I’d still want to stand out. I just think it’d be a really good team.”
Gordon said he’s been working on his outside shot, taking between 500 and 550 attempts a day by himself in order to become more polished.
“I want to make three or four jumpers a game to keep everybody honest,” he said. “I haven’t hit that stage of my game yet.”
While he continues to find ways to improve for one of the three schools on his list, never once has the recruiting process affected his psyche.
“He’s mature beyond his years,” Kennedy said. “He cut his list to three and he’s had control of the recruiting process the whole time. It was never a crazy circus. Once he said it’ll be in the spring, all the pressure was off.”
Photo: Brian Fitzsimmons
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.