The Future Looks Bright for Air Gordon
June 15, 2011 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
To look at Aaron Gordon, the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Player of the Year, and the first sophomore to earn the honor in a very long time, one might not realize that the 6-8 center who led Archbishop Mitty High School to its first state title in history is more than just a basketball phenom.
In 2010-11 Mitty reeled off a 20-game winning streak en route to winning the state title and finished the year with a 32-2 record, a striking improvement from the 21-20 mark his team posted in 2009-10.
“At the end of my freshman season, we told ourselves that we’re not going to go out like that again,” reflected Gordon. “Our goal was to win the state title. We went through the whole year saying that was our goal and we got there. It was a phenomenal feeling.”
There is pressure associated with winning streaks. Each win adds a little more weight to the pressure and, like the NCAA Tournament or a FIBA World Championship medal round, once the playoffs start, it’s one-and-done, adding more pressure to the situation.
“I actually feel like we shouldn’t have thought of the streak the way we did,” he said. “We sort of thought of it like we were on top of the world and got almost cocky a little bit. But, we didn’t lose, so we were allowed to keep feeling that way, I guess.”
“A good teammate to me is if you see someone with their head down, it’s taking them aside and putting your arm around them, talking to them, telling them to keep their head up, telling them that they’re a great player, they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t a great player. Keeping their spirits up, basically.”
~ Aaron Gordon
However, his life is about much more than basketball. Gordon is a very well-rounded individual with a musical ear and learned to play most of Beethoven’s Für Elise on the piano after listening to his mother play.
A fan of soccer, although admittedly he doesn’t follow it much, Gordon says his favorite player is two-time FIFA Player of the Year and Brazil National Team member Ronaldinho.
He also throws the discus and competes in the shot put on his school’s track and field team. While he missed much of the season due to the run to the state title game, Gordon won every meet he entered.
“At the end of the season I had to focus on grades and basketball, so I couldn’t finish out the season,” said Gordon, who wasn’t able to try for a state title in his two field events. “But, all the meets I went to, I won. So, I’m going to stick with that.”
Let’s not forget about his sense of humor. First claiming the last book he read for pleasure was something by Dr. Seuss, Gordon confessed that it was “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card.
While he’s multi-dimensional, basketball is in his blood. The youngest of three children born to Shelly Davis and Ed Gordon, who played basketball at San Diego State, both of his older siblings are currently playing college basketball: Drew at New Mexico and Elise at Harvard, and games at the Gordon household can become very competitive.
“My family has made me what I am today,” stated Aaron. “We play one-on-one, two-on-two, they’re big in my head mentally. They help me physically. They’re great people and I love them so much. They’re my home team.”
Drew was a standout at Mitty, but never won a state title. Elise also played at Mitty and won two titles. So is there some sibling rivalry between them? “Oh, always!” said the 2011 West Catholic Athletic League, CIF Central Coast Section and Cal-Hi Sports Player of the Year. “The funny thing about it is that my sister actually has two state titles, too. That just adds onto the fire of our sibling rivalry. But, the rivalry is really good.”
More importantly, who would win if Drew and Aaron went up against each other?
“The last time we played, he beat me pretty bad,” laughed Aaron. “But, I can beat him. It switches off. It’s like 50-50.”
Aaron Gordon spent most of the first four USA Developmental National Team training sessions working hard on rehabbing his sprained ankle with USA U16 National Team and Denver Nuggets
athletic trainer Dan Shimensky.
Aaron, who arrived in Colorado Springs, Colo., on June 10 with a sprained ankle, has turned his attention to trying to help the 2011 USA Men’s U16 National Team capture the gold medal at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship next week. Forced to watch as 26 of the nation’s top 16-and-unders trained for the first four of five sessions prior to the USA U16 squad being named, Aaron was unsure if he would make the cut or not.
“I was nervous, but I think that with the time I did play, I thought I showed them what I could do,” he said. “I think that helped me out a lot.
“I also believe that last October helped me out, because I played so well there,” added Aaron, who participated in the 2010 USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team mini-camp.
So how difficult was it to watch as 15 of his USA Developmental National Team teammates, who are a big part of his basketball family, headed home after the cut? Very.
But, Aaron learned how to be a great teammate from growing up in a close-knit family and talked with many of them before they left.
“They’ll always be part of the team,” said Aaron. “Just because they didn’t make it to Mexico doesn’t make them not part of the team. They’re always going to be my friends.”
The U.S. squad still has two more days of practices at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs before traveling to Cancun, Mexico, for the June 21-25 tournament.
The international travel won’t faze him, however. Aaron has already been to Europe twice, the first time was to Spain when he was very little, but he doesn’t remember much of that one. When he was seven, the Gordon family went to Sonthofen im Allgäu, Germany. In a town nestled among the towering Alps, Aaron and his family stayed with the family his mom stayed with while a foreign exchange student in college. He has many more memories of that trip, including being impressed by both the Alps and the delicious German food.
His third trip to a foreign country will be filled with even more memories, hopefully one of standing on the medal stand with the national anthem playing in the background. While it will mean a new stamp for his passport, Aaron won’t be completely out of his comfort zone in Cancun. His parents, who honeymooned there, will be in the stands. And he’s taken two years of Spanish, so he’ll be okay on that front.
What about conducting a post-game press conference in Spanish?
“I don’t think I could do that,” he decided.
Whether he does speak to the Mexican press in their native language or not, one thing’s for sure: the 2011 West Catholic Athletic League, CIF Central Coast Section and Cal-Hi Sports Player of the Year has a very bright future ahead of him.