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COLUMN

Evan Gordon will bring veteran mindset to IU

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Follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Hoosiers and Purdue set to play once next season

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 6:09 pm

What does Evan Gordon bring to the Indiana Hoosiers?

For one, a veteran backcourt presence. He's basically a three-year starter – two years at Liberty University in Virginia, one year at Arizona State.

That's three times the experience of returning point guard Yogi Ferrell. It could be invaluable in hotly contested games (basically the entire Big Ten schedule) and certainly in postseason play. IU will be gunning for a third straight NCAA tourney appearance and Gordon could be a huge help in not just getting there, but making it three straight Sweet 16 appearances.

Second, Gordon is a proven scorer. He's averaged in double figures in every college season and averages 74.2 percent from the free-throw line for his career. He averaged 10.1 points last season for Arizona State and likely would have scored more if he wasn't in the same backcourt as Jahii Carson, the Pac-12's second-leading scorer.

He's a solid three-point threat, having made 59 three-pointers last season, with a career high of 70 while he was at Liberty. This fits in with an Indiana team that has ranked among the nation's three-point shooting best the last two seasons.

Gordon hasn't shown a lights-out shooting touch -- he averaged 39.1 percent from the field, 34.7 percent from three-point range last season for Arizona State -- but if he taps into the Jordan Hulls-Victor Oladipo wear-out-the-Cook-Hall-entry-card mindset, those percentages can rise.

Third, he hasn't played point guard since high school, but he can handle the role when Ferrell needs a break. He's improved his assist-to-turnover ratio. Last season, he had 76 assists against 45 turnovers.

Fourth, Gordon isn't a big guard in the manner of Syracuse guards Brancon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams, who manhandled the Hoosiers in the Sweet 16, but at 6-3 and 200 pounds, he's bigger than Hulls and Ferrell. He's beginning his fifth year in a college strength program, so he's not likely to get overpowered.

Fifth, while he hasn't played for coach Tom Crean, he's well versed in Cream and Crimson tradition. His older brother Eric was a Hoosier All-America and is now a well-established NBA star. He understands the atmosphere and the expectations.

Finally, he can play defense, and that will be huge in how much playing time he gets under Crean. His 47 steals last season were second on the team.

Gordon, who just graduated from Arizona State, will be eligible immediately while working on his master's degree in sports administration. He has one year of eligibility left. IU has one scholarship available after guards Remy Abell and Maurice Creek decided to transfer, Oladipo and Cody Zeller entered the NBA draft, and Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston completed their college eligibility.

A cynic would say getting Gordon will help in the recruitment of his younger brother, Eron, an Indianapolis North Central freshman considered one of the nation's top players in the Class of 2016. IU and Purdue offered Eron a scholarship while he was still an eighth-grader. He said he plans on waiting until his senior season to announce his decision.

Does signing Evan Gordon help with Eron's recruitment? Of course it does. Does it guarantee anything? Not a chance. The teenage brain is too complex for that.

Anyway, while IU hasn't announced anything official, Gordon tweeted his decision Wednesday morning, a day after visiting Butler. He met with Crean and his staff Saturday while he was in town watching his brother play in the adidas May Classic. He also talked to Purdue, which wound up getting another fifth-year senior from Indianapolis, 6-6 forward Errick Peck, a Cornell transfer.

Getting Gordon means the Hoosiers won't have to rely heavily on incoming freshmen guards Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams, and walk-on Jonny Marlin, the former IPFW starting guard. Robinson and Williams will have time to adjust to the college game. Marlin, who isn't the biggest guy at 5-10 and 170 pounds, is looking at a limited role, at best.

Don't count senior Will Sheehey out of the backcourt mix. He's usually listed as a small forward, but he can play shooting guard. Heck, he can probably run a little bit of point guard. He's a 6-7, hard-working athlete who fits the versatile role Crean likes in all of his players.

Deciding to play for his third college program came after Gordon decided he wanted the chance to play closer to his Indianapolis home.

“Me and my family discussed about me coming home and being able to play in front of my family,” he said. “After being away from home for six years, to come home for one last season is special.”

Also, IU and Purdue are set to play just once in basketball next season. The Big Ten announced its schedule for one-game opponents and it included the Hoosiers and the Boilers, who are set to meet in West Lafayette.

IU Athletic Director Fred Glass and Purdue Athletic Director Morgan Burke talked Wednesday in Chicago during the annual Big Ten sprint meetings. Glass wanted to set up a non-conference game with Purdue at Assembly Hall, but the Boilers already have finalized their 13-game non-conference schedule that includes the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., a Big Ten-ACC Challenge home game with Boston College and road game at West Virginia.

Burke told the Lafayette Journal and Courier's Mike Carmin that “Our (non-conference) schedule is set and we're not going back on any contracts.”

Purdue and IU participate in the annual Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis along with Notre Dame and Butler, but don't play each other. Indications are the Crossroads Classic format won't be changed to set up a Boiler-Hoosier game. Indiana is set to play Notre Dame and Purdue is set to play Butler at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in December.

For the Boilers to play at IU, they would have to either drop or reschedule the West Virginia game, or give up a home game. It would make no sense for them to do that.

As for adjusting the Crossroads Classic schedule, is that really in Purdue's best interests?

Not sure it is.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.