FORT WAYNE — Eron Gordon is far past the point where the expectations that come from being Eric Gordon’s youngest brother are actually intimidating.
They’ve been a fact of life for so long that the North Central freshman and 2016 Indiana target has grown accustomed to them. After all, when the elder Gordon was named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball at North Central, Eron was in third grade. He was in fourth grade the year Eric was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year at Indiana and then taken seventh in the NBA Draft. For that entire period, Eron been expected to one day pick up the Gordon torch.
“He’s been looked at in that view for so long that it’s just natural to him,” said Matt Green, Eron’s coach with the Eric Gordon All-Stars, the summer travel/AAU program his older brother started. “He doesn’t have the pressure on him. Since he’s small, everyone’s been talking about how good he’s gonna be. His brother is this person. It doesn’t bother him as much as the normal kid, because he’s dealt with it for so long it’s just like second-nature.”
And since he’s long since come to grips with that, his goals now are not to match Eric — who has struggled with injuries in the NBA but averaged 18.0 points per game over five seasons — but surpass him.
“His thing now is, ‘I want to be better than my brother,’” Green said. “’I want to go to North Central and break all his records. I want to go to college wherever it is and do better than what my brother did. I want to go to the NBA and be drafted sixth, or No. 1. He’s all about using that as competition to be better than what Eric was.”
One way he’s tried to do that is to always play above his age group, and he’s continued to do that in both high school and the spring and summer travel circuit. He not only played but starred at North Central as a freshman this year, averaging 19.3 points per game. In summer travel ball, he’s playing up two levels with the 17 and under squad even though he could play with the 15 and under squad.
So far, he’s been able to hold his own there, too. In his squad’s first game at the Run-N-Slam All-Star Classic on Friday night at the Spiece Fieldhouse, Gordon scored 19 points in his team’s 54-36 win over ACB Gold.
“In college a lot of people have to work against playing against stronger people,” the younger Gordon said. “I felt like this was a good opportunity to play up. …It’s sort of like high school. I feel like it’s going to help me in high school and later on.”
Consistently dealing with bigger players allows him to continue to work on what is already his biggest strength — the ability to get to the rim and finish. At 6-foot-3, 175-pounds, he still has a lot of room to develop physically, but he has exceptional body control for his age. He can drive to the basket, absorb contact and still get the ball in the hole.
“He’s an And-1 guy,” Green said. “…. He gets around the basket, he’s either scoring it, he’s going to get fouled, and more times than not, he’s scoring it, he’s going to get fouled and he’s going to go to the free throw line.”
But he does need to get much better at the free throw line, and he also has to develop a jump shot. The latter has come a long way in the past year. A season ago, his shooting motion was very herky-jerky and it often looked like he was pushing the ball. This year, through extensive work with his father Eric Gordon Sr., he’s cut out the wasted motion and picked up his release point to make his shot look much smoother.
“I’m trying to keep my elbow in and get more lift on the shot,” Eron Gordon said. “… At first it didn’t go in very much, but I know it’s just all repetition. It’s starting to go pretty good now. I just have to work on my free throws.”
His older brother has typically been good at both. He’s made 36 percent of his 3’s in the NBA and 81.3 percent of his free throws.
Whether he will ply his trade at the same college as his brother will remain an unanswered question from some time. Indiana offered him a scholarship a year ago, and the Hoosiers have maintained their consistency in recruiting him, he said. He also has an offer from Purdue, however, and he’s also hearing from Baylor, Michigan, Michigan State, Louisville and Ohio State.