What do we know about Evan Gordon? We know he is a junior transfer from Liberty University. He is listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 200 pounds, and has started every game for Arizona State Basketball so far this season.
Besides that standard information listed above, Mr. Gordon is a quiet, yet efficient ASU guard, and is relatively unknown to the Sun Devils’ fan base.
A lot of people have been focusing on his more-than-deserving backcourt partner, Jahii Carson. However, since seeing Evan put on an impressive performance earlier in the year in the Sun Devils Maroon and Gold scrimmage, I’ve been intrigued to learn more about this mystery man from Indianapolis, Indiana.
It is a Tuesday afternoon and I wait outside the ASU player’s room where the team is watching some post-practice film. After waiting for some time, the ASU squad quickly files into the locker room, still in their practice jerseys. The SID peeks into the locker room and informs Gordon that I’m looking to speak with him, and then returns to the hallway to tell me Gordon will be out in about 10 minutes.
About 10 minutes later, Gordon emerges from the locker room, changed out of his practice attire, now in a black t-shirt, USA basketball shorts, white socks and sandals. With a clear take-out box that appears to be a cheeseburger and fries, and is sitting atop a personal box of pan pizza in one hand, Gordon and I shake with his open hand and head over to an empty room to sit down and talk.
We start discussing his choice to leave his prep school, Hargrove, for Liberty, who, as he explained, was one of the only Division-I schools left at the time with roster spots still open. Evan went on to tell me about how his father, who starred at Liberty for three years, was happy when he decided to take his services there. After that, Evan transitioned into talking about what transpired after he finally decided it was time to move on from playing basketball at Liberty University.
Evan Gordon: As soon as I asked for my open release, Arizona State called me. Coach Smith, who is not here anymore, called me that same day and I just stayed in contact with Arizona State. Kent State was probably the next place I was going to go if it wasn’t going to be here.
Cammeron Neely: Going with that, how were you sold on ASU in the recruiting process?
EG: I came out here and they were in a tough time, I think. They took me on a visit; of course I loved the campus, and all the facilities are much different from Liberty. To play an up-tempo, up-beat offense, switching to a man-to-man defense kind of just fit my style of play.
CN: So you transfer here, and you have to sit last year obviously. Not so much as an athlete but as a person, take me through what is was like for Evan Gordon last year just going to class, practicing and then watching the games.
EG: It was tough, because first of all we weren’t winning. Last year, it was such an adjustment from the type of conditioning we had at Liberty, [and] the conditioning here, and it was tough because we thought we were going to have a big year last year, and it turned out to be not what we wanted. I got to meet Bo and Jahii cause we kind of had to stick together when the team went on the road, we worked out together and did everything pretty much together outside of basketball. It was hard. It was a long year for me; it was the longest I’ve ever not played basketball other than when I was born. It was tough but the adjustment in practice and the speed of play, being able to play against Carrick [Felix] who’s six-six, long wingspan and very athletic — learning how to score over him other than playing against a walk-on at Liberty was better.
CN: You sit out last year, it was a really tough season — I’m sure you’re very excited to come in and play this year. What was your psyche like the first couple games when your shot wasn’t going down, and really the only thing that it was perceived you were doing well was your defense?
EG: Growing up, I’ve always been a defensive player. My high school in Indianapolis, Coach Doug [Mitchell] is focused on defense. Offense is not his forte, but defense is definitely. He preaches and teaches defense. Growing up I was always a pretty good on-ball defender. Coming out the first game and everything and my shots not falling, and the next game after game, it was tough. It was hard. I definitely wanted to come out with a good start and just have momentum for the rest of the season and it just didn’t happen that way. I just was trying to figure out what was wrong, what was different, and I couldn’t explain it. Coach Sendek says “You’re just in a slump you’ll snap out of it.” I’ve had previous coaches who have watched us play [that have said] “Stick in there, just keep putting shots up in your off time,” and I kind of think back in the old days and when this has happened before, and what happened to my brother before, and what he kind of does to get out of it. It is to continue [in] off-practice time and everything to get in the gym and get extra shots up and build your psyche up. So when the first shot hit [against Sacramento State], it was just a relief.
CN: I was looking through your family and I noticed Eric [Gordon, who plays for the New Orleans Hornets] wore number 10 with Clippers and wears it with the Hornets now. You wore 10 at Liberty and you’re wearing it now, and then your brother Eron he’s sporting 10 as well. What’s up with that?
EG: (laughs) Well ok, at the Municipal Gardens where we all first started playing, it was kind of like a junior league and you only had numbers 1-10 (chuckles again) and when we were younger we were kind of bigger than everybody else so we had the biggest number and 10 was the biggest number. But our grandmother always told us pick something that revolved around something holy, and she’s a very spiritual woman so we picked 10 for the 10 Commandments. So it just kind of worked out and my brother drifted off into going 23, of course. And I went to 32 because Magic Johnson’s my favorite player and when my older brother couldn’t get 23 with the Clippers he resorted back to 10 because that’s the only other number he’s ever played with. So I went to 10 going to Liberty because there was somebody that was 32 so it kind of all just worked out, and my little brother followed suit.
CN: Let me ask what was it like seeing him [Eric] go through the process — what was kind of like a controversy with Illinois and Indiana, and then ultimately watching him go play at Indiana and play in your home state.
EG: Well it was crazy, it was his, I believe, sophomore year when he first committed to Illinois. I was in eighth grade at the time. So going through that whole year and everybody’s setting up for him to go to Illinois and everything; my freshman year rolls around and we still think he’s going to Illinois and I’ve gotten close with Bruce Weber and it was just fun; it was crazy. He was actually focused more on being the number one rated player in high school; that was kind of the main focus around my family. When they had the change at IU from Coach Davis to Coach Sampson, I went down there that summer to elite camp and my dad asked about it. We knew Coach Sampson from Oklahoma. He was one of the great coaches of college basketball and I went down there and Coach Sampson kind of gave me the little bit of rock star treatment during elite camp taking me under his wing. Whenever we were doing drills he’d call me out the whole camp to go out on the court and do everything, I got to play against their players. So when I got home I told my brother (imitates a younger version of himself) it’s nice down there (laugh) and so with him we didn’t really want to drive two hours away to go to Illinois, it was closer just a 45-minute drive down south. Growing up, Indiana basketball from elementary school to college, it’s a tight knit group. It was kind of like a family decision, everybody was like ‘should he go,’ ‘should he not go,’ and my brother didn’t even want to tell Coach Weber he had a change heart and when he did, everything kind of erupted after that. Looking back he got drafted number seven out of Indiana so I don’t know if that was the wrong decision or the right decision.
CN: So you really had some play in that.
EG: Oh yeah, if it weren’t for me going back and trying to influence my family that that was a better place for him, he would have went to Illinois. (Smiling) I mean I don’t want to say that because of Illinois, but hopefully they’ve gotten over that.
CN: I’ve got to ask, out of all the people on the team, who is the goof ball of the team? Who is the guy that’s always keeping people in line and all uptight and then who is the real laid back guy who doesn’t say anything?
EG: Well I can say the laid back guy who doesn’t say anything would have to go to me. Our teammates have labeled me the quiet guy on the team. The guy keeping everybody in line? I think that would have to be Carrick, because he’s just the verbal leader of the team and he kind of orchestrates things and he’s just the person that people respect and he can connect to everybody. The goof ball of the team? It still might go to Carrick, but, I think Joey Holmes is a goof ball, and Jahii, he’s a goof ball too. We don’t really have a team goof ball like last year we did.
CN: Who would that be?
EG: Last year would definitely be Keala [King, who was dismissed from the program mid-season by coach Sendek]
CN: Jahii is getting all of the spotlight right now and you guys have all had some pretty good games.
EG: I mean, I just play the game. I get a lot of attention because of my older brother and everything. I’m used to being in and out of the spotlight. I’ve played on a team with him and he’s gotten all the spotlight; it’s not that different for me. My little brother, he’s the one to worry about, he’s going to have a lot of spotlight; he’s probably the best out of all of us.
CN: How does he feel about that?
EG: He always talks stuff to us about that. I know when I go home this summer, he’s going to think he’s better than me. He’s already 6-3 and getting kind of built.
CN: Do you guys ever play? Is Eric allowed to play…?
EG: Yeah he plays with us. We get after it; there’s some fierce wars. I think that’s one other thing that’s helped my defense, being able to guard him, play him, but it gets physical. My dad plays, my little brother plays. We’ll play 2-on-2. We play a lot.