In his early high school years, Evan Gordon visited Bloomington for a basketball camp with then-IU Coach Kelvin Sampson and the rest of the IU roster.
His older brother, Eric Gordon, then a senior at North Central High School, had already given a verbal commitment to play college basketball at the University of Illinois, but the younger Gordon pleaded for Eric to reconsider.
“I went back home and told my brother, ‘It’s closer, and you can go there and be the man’ because they were a good team, but I definitely thought he could come down and make a difference,” Evan said. “I told my dad, and it started circulating through my family, and my dad got interested.”
On Oct. 12, 2006, Evan’s persuasion was felt across the basketball world as his brother withdrew his verbal commitment to the Fighting Illini for the Hoosiers.
Evan said he thinks he played a major role in his brother’s decision.
The older Gordon came to Bloomington for just a single season but led the Big Ten in scoring as a freshman with 20.9 points per game.
After later watching his brother endure a myriad of taunts and jeers in Champaign, Ill., Evan knew he wanted to play in the Big Ten because of the atmosphere the fans’ love and devotion created for the game.
Instead, he ended up at Liberty University where his father, Eric Gordon Sr., played three seasons from 1982-84.
After two seasons in Lynchburg, Va., Evan decided it was time for a change.
Again, a chance to play back in his home state just wasn’t there. He instead opted for Arizona State.
But last spring — with one year of eligibility left and the Hoosiers losing a string of veterans to graduation, the NBA and transferring — Evan saw an opportunity to leave another one-year legacy of the Gordon brothers in Bloomington.
IU Coach Tom Crean made Evan an offer to come play for the Hoosiers for his last year of eligibility while he pursued a master’s degree in sports administration and sports management.
Evan took a tour of Assembly Hall and Cook Hall, and it was just as he remembered it in his high school days.
Now, with less than a season until his Hoosier days are done, Evan can only hope to be an influential player, just as persuading his brother did six years ago.
Shortly after Evan arrived in Bloomington for summer workouts with his new teammates and coaches, the team’s two leaders, senior forward Will Sheehey and sophomore guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, left the country for Russia to represent the United States in the World University Games.
For two weeks, Evan was left to continue to learn the ropes of the IU offensive and defensive schemes, all while taking on the role as the oldest player on the squad and mentoring the incoming freshmen.
IU Associate Coach Steve McClain said he was impressed with Evan’s adaptation to the IU culture.
“He’d been here a week, and you would have thought he’d been here for four years,” McClain said. “He’s done an unbelievable job fitting in.”
Because he had already moved once before, Evan said he knew it was all about winning basketball games. But after arriving on campus, he said he was glad he was taken in with respect for what he knew and could teach the younger guys on and off the court.
“I basically just gave them my personality and hoped they liked it, but at the end of the day it’s a business,” Evan said, “We need to win, I’ve won and this team has won the last couple years, and I just hope to bring my experience and my leadership and my knowledge to this team.”
Evan said his work ethic has been able to rub off on some of the freshmen who he’s taken under his wing, including forward Devin Davis and guard Stanford Robinson.
During the summer, after organized workouts, Evan said he would often spend more time in Cook Hall putting up more shots with Robinson or lifting weights with Davis, but one of the best things he could teach the younger guys was time management while balancing school work, sleep and team responsibilities.
“When they got here, guys would be tired for workouts and didn’t know what to do, and then they would ask me what time I went to sleep. I said 10:30,” Gordon said.
“Because we’d get a text at 10 p.m. saying we had 5 a.m. conditioning. They just didn’t know what to expect.”
But coming from what he thought was a pretty big “party school” at Arizona State, Gordon said he was surprised trying to adapt to the social life of being a student athlete in Bloomington.
“He (Eric) said, ‘It’s gonna be a different college experience than you’ve been experiencing, even at Arizona State,’ and you know you always hear about Indiana being a big party school, and I thought Arizona State was, but it’s a little different being a basketball player at Arizona State and being a basketball player here,” Evan said.
“I think here the spotlight is even brighter than it ever has been for me. Basketball-wise, coaches push you a little bit harder. Just the workouts are a little bit harder, but as a team we always help each other out.”
Evan pushed his way into the starting lineup during IU’s first exhibition game against Southern Indiana, where he put down a solid stat sheet of six points, five rebounds and three assists in the Hoosiers’ easy victory.
He played a lesser role coming off the bench behind Ferrell and sophomore Jeremy Hollowell against Hillsdale in the final exhibition game of the season.
Evan went just 1-for-4 from the floor but still grabbed four rebounds and dished it off for two assists.
He came off the bench once again in his regular season debut against Chicago State where he, along with most of the team, prospered with the slew of foul calls.
Evan shot 6-for-7 from the free throw line to go along with one bucket, three rebounds and one of IU’s 13 blocks.
As a much stockier guard than Ferrell, he’s proven he can battle for rebounds and take it into the glass against defenders much bigger than his listed 6-foot height.
In practice, IU Associate Coach Tim Buckley said Evan provided a different skill set than the Hoosiers were used to with Ferrell at the point.
Although he may not be as quick to get up the court, his change of pace and bulk have allowed him to be explosive driving in the lane.
“Evan does a great job of changing his speeds and playing at his tempo, and he’s a powerful guy when he gets where he wants to go,” Buckley said. “He can put you under the rim.
“He can finish, so even though he’s compact and he’s not necessarily really long, he does a great job putting that defender in trouble at the rim.”
Ferrell and Evan often played on separate teams during preseason practices and workouts, and Ferrell said he was impressed with how quickly Evan was able to pick up the play book after making another college transition.
But he knew because of the Gordon name that he was getting a great teammate to join him in the backcourt after watching Eric’s play during his college and NBA career.
And although their relationship has been interesting — with Ferrell teaching Evan about the IU method of play and Evan giving his younger teammate some experience tips on basketball in general — the two have meshed well and have created a diverse skill set in IU’s backcourt whenever they’re both on the floor.
“He’s a poised point guard,” Ferrell said. “He won’t go fast at times like myself. I always want to go fast, but I’ve noticed you don’t have to go fast all the time. He’s more of a poised point guard, just picking his spots.”
Evan said he knows he may not be the focal point of the offense after his days at Liberty and Arizona State, but just having a chance to play under the lights of Assembly Hall and close to home has made his third college worth the switch.
And for a guy with hopes of playing at the next level, knowing that five players on last year’s roster now play overseas or in the NBA, he said he doesn’t think there’s a
better place to showcase his talents one last time.
“I have aspirations to play in the NBA or play overseas, so I (hope) to better my chances and have a great season for myself,” Gordon said. “This is a program that always wins, so I’m helping out in that aspect to try and make sure we win games.”
Follow reporter Nathan Brown on Twitter @nathan_brown10.