No. 1, and it wasn't even close: Indianapolis' Eric Gordon, the nation's top-ranked shooting guard in the Class of 2007, went to Indiana's Midnight Madness and switched his commitment from Illinois to the Hoosiers, ending one of the great recruiting dramas of this decade.
Gordon is talented enough to be a one-and-done player in Bloomington, but the reverberations of his decision will last much longer than his stay in college. Here's why:
• Gordon ignited a bitter Big Ten coaching rivarly: Bruce Weber vs. Kelvin Sampson. Weber can't come out and say it, but he and the Illinois staff are incensed over Sampson's recruiting coup. The Illini secured Gordon's commitment in November 2005 and based their entire recruiting plan around him, halting their pursuit of other shooting guards and luring players based on the fact they'd play along with the future superstar everyone called "EJ."
When Sampson took the IU job in March, he felt it necessary to attempt to succeed where Mike Davis had failed -- at recruiting the Hoosier state's No. 1 prep player. By chasing Gordon, Sampson sparked a debate over the ethics of pursuing opponents' verbally committed players. And EJ eventually opted to spurn Weber and become Sampson's signature recruit -- a feat the coach managed to pull off while being on campus-arrest for his phone-call violations at Oklahoma. Neither Weber nor Sampson are going anywhere for a while ... and this could turn into a long-lasting grudge.
• The heat from Illinois fans is back on Weber, even though he's just two years removed from a run to the national title game. The headline on on an Illiniboard.com story from Nov. 28, 2005 -- the day Gordon pledged himself to Illinois -- was, "Bruce Weber Can Silence Critics Now." With Gordon gone, so is the silence, replaced by this painful reality: the UofI did not sign a top-50 player in its class of 2006, and has not yet secured one for '07 or '08.
Before the Illini lost Chicagoan Sherron Collins, the No. 2-rated point guard in the Class of 2006, to Kansas, Scout.com's Dave Teleptold me that as long as Weber got either Collins or Derrick Rose -- the second-rated 2007 point guard, also from Chicago -- the coach would be fine.
Collins is in Lawrence. Rose recently removed Illinois from his short list and looks to be headed to Memphis. And this weekend, Gordon jumped ship. Weber is a talented-enough coach to meld a team of three- and four-star prospects into a Big Ten contender, but a return to the Final Four will be difficult without one of those superlative guards.
No. 2: Syracuse's Paul Harris stayed up late, and took the "freshman leader" concept to a new level.
Harris, the Orange's rookie guard with a hybrid NBA/NFL body (he's already 6-foot-5, 220 pounds and chiseled) went to work on the night before 'Cuse's first practice. According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Harris put in calls to every member of the team -- including the coaching staff -- to send one last preseason message. Senior Terence Roberts got a voice mail from Harris saying, "It's your last year and I don't want you going out like any of those guys the last two years." Assistant Mike Hopkins woke up with a Harris voice mail, too ... and saw that the kid called him at 2:15 a.m.
Those are bold moves for a true frosh, but Harris isn't overstepping his bounds. He may not be the second coming of 'Melo, but he's already the Orange's best athlete, and with Gerry McNamara gone it's very possible that Harris could be the team's leading scorer ... and then leave for the NBA after one season. No. 3: High-profile big men are in limbo all across the country.
You've heard about Ohio State super-frosh center Greg Oden: out until Jan. 1 ... or at least that's what the Buckeyes are saying. At Washington, headline-recruit Spencer Hawes is out 2-4 weeks after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He's not the only Pac-10 big man who went under the knife: UCLA's Lorenzo Matahad arthro of his own and is out 4-5 weeks. At UConn, 7-foot-3 Tanzanian Hasheem Thabeet still needs the NCAA Clearinghouse to approve his transcripts. Finally, at Louisville, big boy Derrick Caracter is out of limbo but suspended for the team's first three games; he had to repay what the school is calling (readers, make your finger-quotes here) a loan from a family friend (end finger-quotes) of more than $2,000. The pal, after making the loan, went to work for a sports agent. No. 4: Midnight Movies
An exhaustive search of YouTube for Midnight Madness-related footage yielded the following (I'll embed two of 'em, and link to the rest, in an attempt to keep your browser from crashing):
• Billy D plays prankster at Florida:
(Sad that Kentucky can pack Rupp Arena for its Midnight Madness, while at UF, the national champs can fold back most of the floor-level seats at the O-Dome and still accommodate everyone.)
• Better Tina Than Ike: Cincy guard Jamaul Warren goes in drag to sing What's Love Got To Do With It.
The rest: Kansas went for goosebumps with its scoreboard intro (and therefore kept NCAA tournament footage out of the montage). Corey Brewerdunked over Al Horford ... while Horford was in a chair. Brian Randledid the same thing to former Flyin' Illini guard (and now announcer) Stephen Bardo. Jim Larranaga says "Mason Madness is not about last season." And at Maryland, they love their Gymkana ... until it nearly sets Comcast on fire.
UPDATE: The error about Gordon's younger brother, Evan -- who is not an IU student -- has been edited. I apologize for the mistake.
I think that your story is factually incorrect. Sampson can not even recruit off campus, and such, I don't think he chased after anyone.
The Gordon's expressed interest in IU after the coaching change was made. He wanted to be a Hoosier all along. UI fans and coaches can be mad - I understand that. What I don't really get is how you write for SI, and not a more sensational periodical.
Really, Eric Gordon had a win-win situation. Both Indiana and Illinois are elite teams and he'll perform well at either one.
Although my heart goes out to Illinois fans, I personally think that Indiana was the wiser choice and applaud Gordon. Indiana simply underachieved last year with DJ White out and with him back, Eric and DJ are going to make a powerful duo. Such as duo would simply not exist with the Illini. Of course, the fact that he already lived in Indiana most likely had something to do with it.
Check the articles on EJ. It was EJ who was interested in IU, just not Mike "why did he last so long" Davis. With Davis gone, EJ was able to realize his dream of being a Hoosier. This was a unique situation, that I doubt will be repeated at least by Sampson.
I agree that a renewed rivalry between IU and Illinois has been sparked (remember the old Knight Henson days?). But there are few things I would like to point out and you can take them or leave them. According to the Gordons and EJ's high school head coach, conversation regarding an interest in IU was initiated by the Gordons, not Sampson. Sampson had recruited EJ while at Oklahoma so a relationship had already been established. Plus EJ had always dreamed of playing for the Hoosiers, but the Mike Davis situation was going to prevent that from happening.
Secondly, EJ and his father both have stated that they were very up front with Weber and kept him in the loop during the process. They did not make a lot of public statements, but apparently Weber knew what was going on.
I am not saying that Weber and the Illini faithful should not be upset. I am just saying that there are some mitigating factors that may or may not be presented in the national media. It seems as though this situation is always presented as a case of Sampson relentlessly going after the kid and hounding him to go to IU and then Weber getting totally blindsided. I just don't feel that this is entirely accurate.
Luke, please keep in mind that many UF fans had started making the trek for the Auburn game. That being said, I believe Midnight Madness has pretty much lost it's appeal. It's basically the same thing year in and year out at every school. Hats off to the UK fans who filled Rupp.
Sampson hired Gordon's Aau coach and another friend of Gordon's to be the team video manager. The guy is the biggest scumbag in college ball (in any sport). It's only a matter of time until he screws up again and violates NCAA rules, is forced to leave Indiana in disgrace, while Indiana will be stuck with the NCAA sanctions. The whole Gordon situation is about a complete lack of ethics, but Sampson and Gordon will be a good match because neither of them have ethics.
You are correct in saying Kelvin Sampson went after Eric Gordon. To the IU fans who think Sampson did not, I would say hiring the father's former college coach Jeff Meyer far surpasses just going after a player.
Ssampson is the biggest scumbag in college ball (in any sport). This whole situation highlights a complete lack of ethics, so Gordon and Sampson are perfect for each other, as neither has any ethics. This was a high pressure move, as Sampson hired Gordon's AAU coach, as well as hiring a Gordon family friend to work the video machines at IU basketball. It's only a matter of time until there are new NCAA violations by Sampson, and he leaves in disgrace (again). Indiana will have to pick up the pieces of their program after the punishments are handded out and a new coach is hired.
previous comments commending gordon and sampson are disgusting...both of them have no ethics to say the least. Sampson is a scumbag and went against the unwritten rule of recruiting an already verbally committed recruit. Not only has he put a bad taste in Illinois fans, but the entire bigten. Gordon is a pos for not retracting his commitment a long time ago instead of telling weber that his verbal was still solid and leaving at the last minute basically ruining U of I's recruiting efforts. Both of them are just another example of the corruption of sports and more specifically the bogus ncaa.
Whether the Gordons initiated it or not Sampson should have stayed away imo. He was committed to UI. But what do you expect from someone with recruiting violations. I don't know how up front the Gordons were with Weber. As recently as six days before he switched he told Weber he was coming to Illinois.
"Sad that Kentucky can pack Rupp Arena for its Midnight Madness, while at UF, the national champs can fold back most of the floor-level seats at the O-Dome and still accommodate everyone." Whats said is Kentucky now can't beat the Gators in football or basketball
Sampson had the right to recruit Gordon. It's HOW he went about it that's disturbing. He hired three (3) Gordon associates (two close family friends and his AAU coach) to entice him to the program. No, that's not illegal. But to me, it's a move that borrows on the integrity and principles that a good program is built on. It's this: "Come to Indiana, and I'll let you bring your entourage with you, my master." Instead of this: "Come to Indiana, we have a good program, great fans, unbelievable tradition, and you'll get a good education to boot." I hate to see a program like Indiana, with impeccable integrity up to now, chip away at that foundation by throwing out the window HR practices in maniacal pursuit of a single player. Sampson is basically going off of the philosophy of "I had to destroy the program's integrity, in order to save it." Not sad or tragic. Just a little disappointing.
Illinois fans criticizing Sampson for hiring Gordon associates as acting unethical have a short memory. If you remember, in 1998 Illinois hired Wayne McClain because he was the high school coach of his son Sergio McClain, Frank Williams, and Marcus Griffin who all came to Illinois because Wayne was hired as an assistant coach. If Sampson is unethical for hiring Gordon associates, you must think that your own program is unethical as well.
"Sad that Kentucky can pack Rupp Arena for its Midnight Madness, while at UF, the national champs can fold back most of the floor-level seats at the O-Dome and still accommodate everyone." Whats said is Kentucky now can't beat the Gators in football or basketball"
No whats really sad is a FLORIDA clown gets one little championship and thinks its KING OF THE WORLD. When you get six, count them 6, more then come see me at UK. Until you win 7 National championships, keep your gator trap closed!