Gordon headlines national signing day for Indiana

Here’s the story we ran in today’s paper on the recruiting….
 
by Chris Korman
331-4353 | ckorman@heraldt.com
November 9, 2006
On the day Eric Gordon signed a letter-of-intent to play for the Indiana Hoosiers, his new coach heaped praise upon the North Central guard.
 
But Kelvin Sampson also deferred from directly addressing the people who criticized him for recruiting Gordon, who originally signed with Illinois.

“A lot’s been said about that and you’d like to set the record straight on that stuff,” he said. “But I’m not going to get into setting the record straight on that
stuff.”

Sampson said that the Gordon family made first contact with Indiana’s staff in April, shortly after he arrived.

“He and his family made it clear this is something they wanted to explore,” Sampson said.

The process continued from there with Gordon making several visits to Bloomington until he switched his verbal commitment hours before Midnight Madness.

“The bottom line is, the kid grew up in Indiana, is an Indiana kid and wanted to come to Indiana,” Sampson said.
Sampson said that he usually does not recruit a player who has already verbally committed.

“Think about a kid that is committed to another school,” he said. “We don’t do that. Coaches don’t recruit kids that are committed to another school. But this
situation was certainly unique. I hope it doesn’t happen again.”

Finally allowed to discuss Gordon publicly, Sampson was not reserved in his praise of the 6-foot-4 shooting guard.

“The kid scores really high on the wow scale,” he said. “The thing that stood out to me was his swagger. He walks out onto the court and knows he belongs
there. He wants the ball in his hand and knows he can score.”

Sampson wants Gordon to improve his midrange game and, of course, work on his defense. He also admitted he’ll have to be very careful with Gordon, a
supreme talent who can’t be too reined in but must also accept a team concept.

“There’s a freedom a kid like that is going to have to be allowed to play with,” Sampson said. “One of the things you learn to do with really talented kids is don’t
overcoach ’em. Don’t put him in a box. But at the same time, we’re going to play as a team.”

Sampson said Gordon’s game resembles that of Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas.

“He’s (Arenas) got a high level of nasty in him,” Sampson said. “And I mean that as a compliment. Toughness is an attitude. He’s just cold-blooded. That’s an
area where, as E.J. gets into college and develops his game, you’ll see that from him.”

Sampson also discussed two other recruits, Chicago guard Brandon McGee and California center Eli Holman. He was not able to discuss the one junior college
signee, Jamarcus Ellis, because Ellis did not send his letter-of-intent until after the press conference.

Sampson compared McGee, a 6-7 guard/forward out of Crane Tech, to current Denver Nuggets forward Eduardo Najera, who played for Sampson at Oklahoma.

“Brandon can play just about anywhere you’d like him,” Sampson said. “We played Eduardo at the three, we posted him up against guys he had a size advantage
on, we played him outside where he could take people off the dribble.”

Sampson expects Holman, a senior at Richmond High School, to reach 6-10 by the time he arrives at Indiana in June. He’s already got the arms and mentality of
a top shot-blocker according to Sampson.

“He has a passion for blocking shots and playing defense,” Sampson said. “He’s a kid who can come in and play a role because he’s already embraced it. The
biggest adjustment for high school kids that were stars coming in is how to adjust to being on a team and maybe playing a role. Eli already does that.”

Ellis, a 6-6 sophomore swingman at Chipola Junior College in Florida, was returning home from a road trip during the day and didn’t fax his paperwork until the
evening. Sampson was addressing the crowd during the inaugural Indiana basketball tip-off dinner and had to ask assistant Rob Senderoff if the letter had come,
to which Senderoff replied with a thumbs up.

The Hoosiers still have one scholarship to give out but Sampson would not say what position they are targeting.

Detroit point guard Jordan Crawford could choose Indiana soon, though, and would fill a need.

Sampson, who is unable to recruit off campus due to recruiting violations committed while coach at Oklahoma, credited his assistant coaches with doing a good
job of bringing recruits to campus, where he could evaluate them. The NCAA sanctions, he said, were not a hindrance to Indiana’s recruiting efforts.