UA BASKETBALL

Arizona basketball: Gordon's gamble

The future Wildcat projects as a PF but sees himself at SF
2013-04-05T00:00:00Z Arizona basketball: Gordon's gambleBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CHICAGO - Maybe he's a small forward, maybe not.

Maybe it really doesn't matter.

As his MVP performance in Wednesday's McDonald's All American Game demonstrated, Aaron Gordon is going to get on the floor for the Arizona Wildcats next season no matter what.

A day before he collected 24 points and eight rebounds for the West team, the 6-foot-8-inch, 215-pound Gordon said he saw himself as an "X-factor" who can play at small forward for the Wildcats.

That sounds like a good fit in theory since the Wildcats expect to have five returnees for the two post spots in Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, Angelo Chol and Matt Korcheck.

But even though Gordon played everywhere from point guard to center at San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty High School, he's almost universally projected as a college post player. A dominant one.

"I think Aaron's a power forward," ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. "Everybody should have a goal of what they want to get to, but there also is a point of realization that he does his best work with a live body inside the lane and out in transition. He impacts games as a power forward."

Gordon did exactly that on Wednesday, slicing through the lane for dunks and rebounds, skirting the baseline for a one-handed jam and lunging out on the break for several others.

At one point, when Gordon had the ball and a clear line to the basket, the United Center crowd gasped in anticipation - and then he 360'd his way to another dunk.

Of course, it was only in a defense-optional all-star game. But the fact that Gordon was able to do all that at age 17 also suggests that maybe he can turn himself into a small forward before long.

At this point, nobody's putting it past him.

"He could be the second or third best player in his class in terms of pro potential because he's the youngest player of this group," says Jonathan Givony, president of Draft Express, which projects Gordon as the No. 3 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. "He's already really good, but his upside is just off the charts.

"That's why I wouldn't put a ceiling on him. If he says I'm going to be a small forward, I wouldn't laugh at him, but say, 'OK, let's see.'"

That's what he says. During his announcement for Arizona on Tuesday, Gordon was asked how he would fit in with the Wildcats.

"Very well," Gordon said. "I need work on my outside shot but that's coming along. Basically, I need a lot of gym time, lot of repetition, but a lot of that will come along."

Gordon also said he prides himself on being "a 6-8 guy who's able to dribble," while future UA teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who is projected as a defensive-minded small forward, is ready to shift over if needed.

"That's all good because I can play the two," Hollis-Jefferson said. "He can do a little bit of everything, so it's no big deal. We can play well together."

Of course, it's hardly unusual for an elite high school player to aim for a smaller position in college so his NBA stock can stay high.

"Show me a power forward, and I'll show you a kid who thinks they're a small forward," says Scout's Josh Gershon.

But that kind of thinking, Givony said, "got Alex Poythress in trouble" earlier this season when the 6-7 2012 McDonald's All American played small forward at Kentucky.

Besides, Givony said, Gordon may not have to think that way.

"The NBA is moving against the current of a four becoming a three," Givony said. "If you're a 6-8 and you can shoot the ball and you're athletic, you're a perfect power forward for today's NBA. Maybe he has an outdated notion of what an NBA small forward is, because an NBA small forward today is an NBA shooting guard 10 years ago."

At Arizona, there's no telling what a small forward will look like next season or exactly how the UA frontcourt rotation will shape up.

But the chances are pretty good that coach Sean Miller will have fun figuring it all out.

"That stuff is a great problem to have," Telep said. "It's going to work itself out."

On StarNet: Follow the Wildcats during the offseason at azstarnet.com/pascoe

Contact reporter Bruce Pascoe at bpascoe@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @BrucePascoe

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


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