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Stickdog Profile # 1 - Ben Gordon

Our pal Stickdog has agreed to write up some profiles of hot shot high
schoolers for us. Here's his first installment. Stick Dog follows recruiting
passionately and we've enjoyed his insights and thought you would too.


This is the first of a series of reports written to introduce hardcore Duke
(and other college basketball) fans to a number of extremely talented rising
senior high school basketball players. All of these players have mentioned
at least some interest in attending Duke, but I have no idea exactly how
highly they rate Duke on their lists. Nor do I know or purport to know the
recruiting priorities of the Duke coaching staff. I have seen several of
these players in summer competitions, but there are many that I have never
had the pleasure of watching. Most of the information about these players
comes from various reputable internet reports and local newspaper prep
coverage. However, parts of these profiles may consist of fan reports,
internet rumors and personal correspondences that may or may not be
completely accurate. Any corrections to these player introductions by those
who know better would be greatly appreciated.

Meet Ben Gordon

Nate James' impending graduation--along with the potential early departure
of Jason Williams--makes adding at least one versatile backcourt player a
critical Duke recruiting priority. Since versatility is Ben Gordon's
greatest strength as a guard, he appears to be a perfect fit for Duke. Ben
is a 6'2", 180lb guard who attends Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon,
New York. He is the consensus number one rising senior in New York state and
a consensus top 30 recruit nationally. His inventory of skills is highly
impressive and somewhat reminiscent of Chris Duhon. He is described as a
smooth and quick player with superior penetration ability. He has great
court presence and a slick handle. He works hard on defense and gets a lot
of steals, but his game almost always looks smooth and effortless. When he
was a sophomore, he proved his maturity by holding his own against an older
Omar Cook, who is considered one of the best defensive guards in the last
several years. However, Ben is not just a heady and steady lead guard.
Gordon has great leaping ability, fantastic hang time and amazing body
control. His dunking chops are up there with the highest risers in his
class. Ben is also a fantastic scorer who has been compared favorably to
Travis Best. He is a three point specialist with NBA range. He likes to
take the pull up jumper off the dribble. He drives to lane and draws fouls.
He even gets his share of offensive rebounds and converts them into baskets.

Gordon played AAU summer ball last year with Riverside Church, but Riverside
Church was highlighting its senior guards and Ben didn't get much of a
chance to show his stuff. However, he got the attention of all of the big
time programs in the nation with his performance at the Adidas ABCD camp
last summer. According to the Hoop Scoop, Gordon was the fifth best junior
guard at the prestigious camp-behind only Kelvin Torbert, Ernest Turner,
Lavar Seals and Salim Stoudamire, all of whom are top 30 players. He led the
camp in three point percentage, canning 12 of 19 from behind the stripe
against some of the best competition in the nation, and he was chosen to
participate in the underclassman All-Star game. Later, he was named the most
promising underclassman in the prestigious NBA division of the Five-Star
Honesdale camp. He was the leading scorer in the Empire State games and he
directed his Hudson Valley team to its first medal finish in the games since
1995. He's also the player you might have read about who knocked around
Tamir Goodman's reputation in summer play by torching him for 40 points.

Gordon's junior year in high school was even more spectacular than his
summer. He led his Mount Vernon team to an undefeated 28-0 season and both
the Class A and Federation Championship and he was named both Class A and
Fed tournament MVP. He was the only junior selected for the Daily News/MSG
Network Tri-State first team--along with seniors Andre Barrett, Peter
Mulligan and Andre Sweet. On a high school team known for its superior
defense (Mount Vernon held 6 opponents under 40 points), Ben averaged 24.6
points, 4.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 steals for the year. In his last
six high school playoff games, Gordon scored 29, 27, 28, 25, 30 and 20
points even though he was the focus of opposing defenses. In a regular
season road game against White Plains High School and their own high major
prospect Markus Austin, the crowd made the mistake of chanting "Overrated"
at Gordon after he went scoreless in the first quarter. He responded by
scoring 41 points over the final three quarters while leading his team to an
easy victory. In a rematch against White Plains, Ben scored a modest 27
points while canning 6 threes. Ben averaged 17 points and 5 assists as a
sophomore. He needs only 140 more points to become the leading scorer in
Mount Vernon history, and he was the first Mount Vernon player to make the
varsity as a freshman since Scooter McCray did it way back in the 70's.

Gordon has a reputation as a great kid who plays with the confidence of a
star, but without an overblown ego. His coach, Bob Cimmino, loves his
talent, hustle and competitive fire. Here are some of Cimmino's quotes about
Gordon after a state championship overtime victory in which Ben scored 30
points, but struggled with his 3 point shot and missed a potential game
winner at the close of regulation: "He's the best player I've seen at Mount
Vernon. You don't want to cheat a kid like that. I challenge him every day.
The kids know how good he is and there is no jealousy. When we were up five
or six points in overtime, Ben walked over to me and apologized for it being
so close. I just shook my head. It reiterated the point to me that he is the
best. He was not going to let us lose."

After Gordon scored 25 points on 10-18 shooting, 2 threes, 6 rebounds, 2
assists and 2 steals in another important game, Cimmino said, "That was
pretty much a regular day for Ben. If you don't push out on him, he'll see
how far out he can shoot from. If you come out to cover him, he'll go by
you. And he's unselfish, which makes life really unpleasant for the other

More recently, Ben wowed observers with his MVP performance in the annual
Wheelchair Classic game in Jamaica, NY. In a game that included Andre Sweet,
Kyle Cuffe and Adrian Walton on the opposing team, Ben led his squad to
victory with 14 points and several impressive assists. He exhibited the same
kind of smoothness and team-oriented maturity that made Chris Duhon so
valuable in his postseason appearances. Ben was selected for the prestigious
US Albert Schweitzer Basketball Team that is currently playing in Germany.
He is teaming with Andre Barrett, Eddie Griffin, Billy Edelin, UVA signee
Maurice Young and Shavlik Randolph to lead the United States to three
straight opening victories. In the first game, Gordon managed 13 points, 3
assists and 3 steals and he followed up this effort with a 12 point, 6
rebound, 3 assist and 2 steal performance.

The latest word on Gordon's summer plans is that he will be attending the
NBA Players Association Camp in late June, the Adidas ABCD Camp in July and
the Five-Star Honesdale Camp in late August. Perhaps because of his
experiences last year, he is leery of committing to a full schedule of
summer AAU ball, but he has an open invitation to join the Riverside Church
team. Gordon is a good student with a 3.4 average and has already taken the
SAT and achieved a qualifying score. Even so, he plans to take the test
again to improve his initial results.

So what is standing between Gordon and his rightful place on a few Duke
National Championship teams? Well, for one thing, Tommy Amaker. According to
Cimmino, Seton Hall had done the best job of recruiting Ben through the end
of his junior year. Amaker himself has viewed many of Gordon's games, and
the Seton Hall staff has gone so far as to travel to a Canadian tournament
just to watch Ben perform. The presence of Griffin and Barrett on the
Schweitzer team also seems to bode well for Seton Hall. However, many other
schools are in the mix for Gordon's services, and Duke has been listed very
prominently by both Ben and his high school coach. In order of consistency
of listing, Gordon's favorite universities include Seton Hall, Duke, Notre
Dame, Syracuse, St. John's, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Connecticut, Virginia,
Rhode Island, Maryland and Kentucky. He has indicated a desire to stay
relatively close to home so that his family and friends will have a chance
to see him play. However, since anyone in the nation can see almost every
Duke game, that may not be as big of a stumbling block as it appears on
first glance. Gordon is the kind of versatile, smart, talented, mature and
well-rounded player who makes Duke students and alumni proud to be fervent
Duke basketball fans. He has all the skills to vie for immediate playing
time, fill the backcourt void left by James' imminent departure, and
contribute mightily to a championship caliber team from his first day of
practice. Of course, it will be very interesting to follow his recruiting
situation and college successes no matter which university he chooses to