Curtain goes up on Hoosiers

Curtain goes up on Hoosiers

Freshman Eric Gordon in the spotlight as 2007-08 season begins for Indiana basketball

by Chris Korman, H-T sports writer

October 13, 2007

Indiana freshman guard Eric Gordon competes in the dunk contest during Hoosier Hysteria at Assembly Hall Friday night. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the Oct. 13, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

Eric Gordon’s first official act as a member of the Indiana basketball team on the court at Assembly Hall in front of a paying crowd was to miss a dunk during a drill.

His second act was to complete a thunderous behind-the-head dunk the next time down the court.

From there the freshman guard did little wrong, and so this Hoosier Hysteria, like last year’s, belonged to the 6-foot-4 guard from Indianapolis who has created excitement almost unparalleled even for this program.

The celebratory start to another basketball season brought about 14,000 fans to watch, at least 10 of whom were high school basketball players who are considering playing for the Hoosiers.

Midnight Madness celebrations everywhere have become gaudy shows of school spirit, meant to envelop recruits with the tradition and promise of any given program. Several of Indiana’s top targets, including New York forward Kevin Jones, experienced that Friday night. Jones will pick his school and sign a letter of intent next month.

Fans are hip to the theory of event-as-recruiting tool, and chanted the names of prospects in attendance. But they were also there to watch a group of players that is largely new to them.

One of those players is Eli Holman, the 6-9 center from Richmond, Calif. who found out Friday around 2:30 p.m. that he will be academically eligible this season. He has been waiting for word since the summer.

“The longer it goes, of course, you get a little concerned,” said Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson. “But we felt confident all along.”

Sampson, after thanking the crowd, called Holman to mid-court to congratulate him publicly. He did the same with DeAndre Thomas, lauding him for losing over 50 pounds. The 6-8 forward, a JUCO transfer, weighed in under 300 pounds for the first time Friday.

After Sampson’s short speech, the men’s team went through light drills. Sampson is already busy shaping this group’s identity: not only did he have them taking charges and diving for lose balls — one of his favorites — but he also had them working on transition scoring. He expects this group, which is more athletic, to score on the run more often.

One of the most explosive players off the dribble, Jordan Crawford, also showed creativity in the air. He won the dunk contest by hopping over the ball rack and grabbing a lobbed bounce pass in midair before dunking. Earlier in the contest, he had bounced the ball off his likeness on the scoreboard above, allowed it to plummet back down and then grabbed it off the bounce for a slam.

Gordon was the star of the 10-minute scrimmage, leading his Cream team to a 24-15 win. He had nine points — two of which came on the sort of swooping dunk that should be a regular sight this season — and hit two 3-pointers. He also had two assists.

At last year’s Hoosiers Hysteria — Sampson’s first — Gordon sat in the bleachers close to the court. He had just announced that he planned to sign with Indiana instead of Illinois.

A year later, his career, however long it may be, had its ceremonial start. He was the first player introduced. Senior captain and forward D.J. White was the last.

Sampson will put his team through its first real practice sometime this afternoon.