UA HOOPS

Arizona basketball: Aaron Gordon chooses Wildcats

2013-04-03T00:00:00Z 2013-04-04T10:04:59Z Arizona basketball: Aaron Gordon chooses WildcatsBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CHICAGO - In the end, Aaron Gordon's decision to become an Arizona Wildcat didn't have to come down to a gut feeling, a word, a mood, or any other subjective factor.

An Excel spreadsheet was all he needed.

That was the one his mother, Shelly Davis Gordon, initially put together on the flight home from Kentucky, after he took the final of his five official recruiting visits.

His mom, a Silicon Valley technical communications worker who had already dealt with the craziness of three Division I recruitments even before her youngest son exploded into a five-star player in the class of 2013, saw no better way to analyze finalists Arizona, Washington, Kentucky and, later, Oregon.

So she popped open the spreadsheet on that airplane, and the family began filling in cells.

What players do they have? What are the coaches like? What style of play do they have? What's the likelihood of going far in the NCAA tournament?

Those were the most important ones.

"Then it got into softer things," Shelly said, "like 'Do I want to go to school in a cold place or a warm place? Far away or closer? What's the strength and conditioning program like? The facilities?"

It was a close call, Aaron Gordon said Tuesday, but the sum total of all those cells kept popping back the same school: Arizona.

So that was the one Gordon announced Tuesday at a United Center press conference in advance of tonight's McDonald's All American Game, where Gordon will play for the West team against fellow UA recruit Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the East.

"I hope Tucson is celebrating, because I'm going to be a West Coast Wildcat," Gordon said, later looking into the crowd of media and fellow McDonald's players while saying "Let's go, Rondae!"

Gordon briefly noted that he couldn't go wrong with any of his choices but wasted little time putting on the Arizona hat over the others in front of him on the table.

There was no reason not to be brief. Gordon said he actually made the decision about four weeks ago, while he and his parents kept reading that spreadsheet over and over.

"We kept the paper with us, and we still have it," said Ed Gordon, Aaron's father. "We kept referring back to it to see if anything changed. It worked out pretty consistent with what happened today."

Even though Aaron was the highest rated of their three children, the spreadsheet helped keep what Ed Gordon called an "honest process." The Gordons not only have a daughter, Elise, who was recruited to Harvard, but they had also learned from older son Drew, a top-50 prospect in 2008 who was once recruited by former UA coach Lute Olson.

Drew chose UCLA over Washington, whose coach, Lorenzo Romar, has known Ed Gordon since middle school. Drew Gordon then transferred during his sophomore season, setting up a second recruitment that led to New Mexico. He now plays professionally in Italy.

"We were trying to be polite and accommodating to all the coaches, but there were too many people involved and too many schools involved," Shelly said of Drew's first recruitment. This time, "We kept it very close and very quiet and down to just a few schools because it's not fair to the coaches at the other schools to keep them on a string."

Then, just after the visits were finished and the spreadsheet was filled in, the November signing date arrived.

That's when Ed and Gordon found their son was just as analytical as they were: Even though Aaron Gordon took a recruitment-changing visit to Arizona during the Red-Blue Game last October, he wasn't going to finalize anything until the season was over.

Never mind that that meant Gordon would have the decision hanging over his shoulders during his entire senior year at Archbishop Mitty High School, which he led to the California Open Division championship game before losing to perennial powerhouse Mater Dei.

"At first I had hoped he was going to do it fast so he could play his senior year without worrying about it, but he was adamant," Shelly Davis Gordon said. "He wanted to do his homework, and part of it was watching what Drew had gone through.

"So he kind of took all of that together and said, 'I'm going to watch a lot of basketball.' He's very analytical, and can see the game as a coach. (He wonders) 'what is the coaching strategy in the last few minutes of a game?' And he really cuts each game into little pieces. Right up to last week he was still doing it."

That could explain why Gordon said he still watched Oregon's run to the Sweet 16 closely even though he had already decided to play for Arizona. The Ducks have a point guard in Dominic Artis who played travel-ball with Gordon and a need up front after losing Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler and Tony Woods, and they exceeded expectations this season.

"Oregon is young, athletic and talented," Gordon said. "I would have fit in absolutely perfect there. There would have been no egos. Dana Altman's a really good coach. … Oregon would have been just as good."

Arizona has a considerably more crowded frontcourt, with Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, Angelo Chol and Matt Korcheck returning. But Gordon said he can be an "X factor" who plays both power and small forward for the Wildcats.

It's hardly the first time a natural power forward has suggested he could be a small forward in college - Ashley has also done so - but Gordon just may be able to pull it off with a considerably skilled game for his 6-foot-8-inch and 215-pound frame.

"He can shoot the ball a little bit, and he's quick, so he can handle it, beat guys off the dribble," said Jonathan Givony, president of Draft Express, which has Gordon listed as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. "It's not the craziest idea in the world, but you're going to have to make that transition."

Essentially, Gordon said he sees himself and Hollis-Jefferson squeezed between a "long, athletic frontcourt and an experienced backcourt" that has guards T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson.

"I can play three, four or anywhere on the court," Gordon said. "It's just a really great fit."

On StarNet: See photos from the Arizona Wildcats' 2012-2013 season and run to the Sweet 16 at azstarnet.com/gallery

Top talent

The highest-rated Arizona recruits under Sean Miller, by average of rankings by ESPN, Scout and Rivals:

5.3 Aaron Gordon, 2013

6.3 Kaleb Tarczewski, 2012

11.0 Grant Jerrett, 2012

14.0 Josiah Turner, 2011

15.3 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 2013

16.3 Brandon Ashley, 2012

five-star recruit

• Name: Aaron Gordon

• Position: Forward

• Height, weight: 6-8, 215

• High school: Archbishop Mitty

• City: San Jose, Calif.

• Class of 2013 rating: 4 (ESPN), 6 (Rivals, Scout)

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


AP Top 25


Free Wildcats Sports Newsletter

University of Arizona sports news and blog headlines, delivered daily

Most Popular

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...