Eric Gordon made it as official as it can get until November when his family went public with his intention to accept a basketball scholarship at the University of Indiana beginning in 2007. Roughly a year ago, Eric Gordon held a press conference at his high school during which he anounced his intention to accept a basketball scholarship to the University of Illinois. He renegged on that agreement. And he did it in dramatic fashion, choosing a bitter rival, and doing it near the end of the recruiting process.
A verbal commitment is just that. Nothing is official until the player signs his letter of intent. But there is an unspoken rule against recruiting a kid who has already verbally committed to another program. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, rules have never mattered much to Kelvim Sampson, be they unspoken, unwritten, or even written. He always been slimeball. So he continued to recruit Gordon, who, along with his family, made a series of public reassurances to Coach Weber and the Illini faithful that he was still a solid Illinois recruit. Other prospects at the shooting guard position cooled to the Illini. I mean, who wants to play behind the top shooting guard in the country?
That brings us to today, when the selfish Gordon finally alerted the press that he would no longer be enrolling at Illinois, and would instead attend Indiana, conveniently coinciding with the kickoff of Indiana's pre-season practices, a televised event at which he'll be the star attraction.
The situation was handled incredibly poorly, and it does not speak well to the ethics of Sampson or the Gordons. It may also not speak well to Coach Weber's ability to recruit, but that's another issue. Players commit early and later change their mind all the time. It's not uncommon. But usually, those kids have the decency to decommit, to re-open the recruiting process, which gives their original choice time to line up a plan B. Gordon did no such thing. He fueled the rumors, strung Coach Weber along, and left the Illinois program high and dry. His parents, especially his father Eric Sr., were complicit in the deception. They must really enjoy getting their name in the paper. As for Sampson, well, we already knew he was an unethical sack of crap, so this whole episode didn't tell us anything we didn't already know.
As for Weber, everyone wants to get the blue chip prospects. For those of us who love college basketball, recruiting is the only story from April through October. But Kelvin Sampson, much like the coach who preceded Weber at Illinois, can't coach. Recruits are great, but you still need a good coach to win games. Good coaches take good talent and beat teams like Bucknell and Bradley in the first round. Bad coaches don't. Sampson's teams consistently underachieved, save for one final four appearance in 2002. And underachieving in the Big 12, a supposed "power" conference that has produced only two national champions in the last 55 years (both Kansas), and none in the last 18, is tough to do. I've lived through the Steve Lavin years at UCLA. I've seen what a great recruiter can do a program when he doesn't know how to coach. I'm completely satisfied with Weber.
But ultimately this falls at the feet of Eric and his family. This situation could have been handled much better, and they failed to do that at every opportunity. Few kids are ever the most hated player by a rival school a year before they set foot on a court, but Eric Gordon just became public enemy #2 today for the Illini faithful. I just pray that the Big Ten schedules a game between U of I and IU in Champaign during the 2007-2008 season. And if Gordon drives the lane and ends up getting pile driven into the floor, I think the pile driver will get quite an ovation from the home that night.
Another exellent take on this right here.