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Has North Central freshman phenom Eron Gordon exceeded his lofty expectations?


12:00 AM, Feb. 11, 2013 EST

Eron Gordon of NC, right, celebrates after Darius Latham, number 30, drew a foul to go to the line late in the fourth quarter. North Central defeated Lawrence North 59-57 on an off balance shot at the buzzer by Darius Latham at LN Friday January 18, 2013. Rob Goebel/The Star. / Indianapolis Star

If there's anybody who can appreciate what North Central High School's Eron Gordon has accomplished so far as a freshman, it's senior teammate Darius Latham.

Three years ago, Latham started as a freshman on the 2009-10 North Central team that won the Class 4A state championship. Latham was a key player on that team as an interior presence alongside star guards Terone Johnson and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera.

So Latham can appreciate the impact -- at times, dominance -- the 6-2 Gordon has shown in his first high school season.

"It's unbelievable," Latham said. "I mean, I can't believe he's been able to come in as a freshman and do the stuff he's been doing. I knew he was good but I didn't think his strength was going to be there for the varsity level. It's obviously there."

It's easy to forget Gordon's a freshman, even for teammates like Latham. Gordon not only wants the ball late in the game, he makes the play more often than not. He's averaging a team-high 18.8 points for No. 10 North Central and has had some of his best moments in the biggest games. For example:

* Scored 31 points in his first varsity game, an 82-77 loss to Pike.

* Scored 26 points in a 73-68 comeback win over Park Tudor, the first loss of the season for Class 2A's top-ranked team.

* Had 22 points and six rebounds in a two-point win over rival Lawrence North.

"And we're just getting started here," said North Central coach Doug Mitchell, obviously looking forward to three more years with Gordon.

That's not to say it's all come easy. Gordon, who already has scholarship offers from Indiana, Purdue, Arizona State and Nebraska, admits the physical difference from eighth grade to high school basketball in one of the most competitive pockets of the country has, at times, taken a toll.

"I don't think I technically hit the wall but things have got tougher," he said. "The biggest thing was learning to fight through screens. When I got here, I really didn't know how to do that. The physical nature of it has been a lot different."

In his first five games, Gordon averaged 25.2 points and shot 11-for-28 (39.2 percent) from the 3-point line. In the next nine games, he averaged 15.1 points and shot 13-for-60 (21.7 percent) from the 3-point line. He's rebounded to average 19.0 in the past two games.

Mitchell shrugs off any perception of a slump.

"He may have hit a snag in the road but where would you go from the first (five) games?" he said. "This is a demanding place to be for a freshman. You're sitting through seven classes at one of the top academic schools in the country and arguably one of the most demanding basketball programs around.

"That's a lot to take on; he's handled it beautifully."

Gordon seems unfazed by the attention. His oldest brother, Eric Gordon Jr., won Indystar Mr. Basketball as a senior at North Central in 2007, averaging 28.9 points a game. He finished his career with 2,178 points, No. 16 on the state's all-time list, before starring for one season at Indiana and getting selected seventh overall in the 2008 NBA draft.

The youngest Gordon, who has another brother, Evan, averaging 11.3 points as a junior at Arizona State, alluded earlier this season to breaking Eric's records as a goal. He's backed off on such talk, although Eron's freshman numbers should put him on pace to eventually surpass his brother's career numbers.

"That's not really my focus anymore," he said. "I just hope I can win some state championships while I'm here. I think that's a greater milestone than scoring a lot of points."

Mitchell said it's difficult to compare Eric and Eron as high school freshman due to varying circumstances. Eric was a freshman on a team that included seniors A.J. Ratliff and Tony Passley; Ratliff was named Mr. Basketball that season and Passley made the Indiana All-Star team.

Eric also aggravated a back injury in the Marion County tournament as a freshman and missed several games.

"Eric was mostly a catch-and-shoot guy," Mitchell said. "Eron is a lot more versatile than Eric was as a freshman but Eric was also playing with two Indiana All-Stars. If you want to put Eric in a time machine and bring him back as a freshman, we can let them play together and decide. That'd be just fine with me."

Eric told Eron there would be a learning curve as a freshman. But the curve has been less exaggerated than anybody -- including his oldest brother -- could have anticipated.

"I know I'm not going to have a great game every single night," Eron said. "That's what (Eric) told me. He said as I get bigger and stronger, I'll learn how to score easier."

That's a scary thought for opponents on North Central's schedule the next three years.

 

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