Aaron Gordon, a 6-foot-8 forward from Archbishop Mitty in San Jose, Calif., averaged 29.5 points in four tournament games last week at a tournament in Hillsboro, Ore. Gordon, one of the nation's top players, has narrowed his college choices to Washington, Kentucky and Arizona.
HILLSBORO, Ore. — High school basketball can be a tough place for a 6-foot-8 phenom destined for greatness and yet Aaron Gordon plows forward.
Admittedly he gets bored with the game he loves, because he has few equals at this level.
“If teams defend me with one guy, it’s over,” he said as a smile eases over his face. “It’s rare when that happens, but when it does, I’m happy.”
It happened last week in the opening game at the Les Schwab Invitational. The Southridge Skyhawks, a Class 6A team from Beaverton, Ore., gave Gordon a late Christmas gift and opted to defend him with a 6-8 junior while trying to shut down everyone else.
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Gordon responded with a career-high 43 points. He connected on 20 of 25 field goals and collected 15 rebounds to lead Archbishop Mitty to an 80-70 victory.
The dynamic senior forward from San Jose, Calif., has narrowed his college choices to three — Washington, Kentucky and Arizona. He was a major attraction at the four-day holiday tournament, claiming the dunk title and thrilling fans with a highflying assault during games.
“Aaron is the reason we’re here,” Mitty coach Tim Kennedy said. “He’s been such a joy to coach because he accepts coaching. He wants to get better. He’s the most competitive guy on our team. And he’s nowhere near reaching his potential.
“I think that’s why he’s drawn so much interest. You kind of project where he’ll be in a few years and you’re like, ‘wow.’ “
Gordon, an artful dunker, tops the chart in the wow factor. He’s a combination of size, speed and power. Think of a younger Blake Griffin.
Gordon likes the comparison, but he also patterns himself after Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen.
“I’m old school that way,” he said. “Scottie was a hybrid who could play 1 to 4. … I want to go to a place where I can develop other parts of my game.”
ESPN ranks Gordon third nationally among high school seniors who haven’t declared where they’re playing basketball next season.
Many recruiting analysts believe he’ll sign with Washington next year because the Huskies began recruiting Gordon when he was 13 and UW coach Lorenzo Romar has close ties with Gordon’s father Ed.
However, Gordon insists he has not made up his mind. He plans to make a decision in the spring after the high school season.
“Basically it comes down to what’s going to be best for me,” Gordon said. “All of the factors combined like skill set, coaching relationship, tradition and where I’m going to be the most successful at. Just picking what feels right.”
Gordon could be a star wherever he goes. At Washington, he would be the most decorated prospect since Spencer Hawes in 2006.
The Huskies have signed 2013 prospects Nigel Williams-Goss and Darin Johnson, both guards. Landing Gordon would give UW a top-20 nationally ranked recruiting class.
It’s easy to understand why schools are clamoring for Gordon because in many ways, he was born to play basketball.
“I just remember dribbling when I was in preschool,” said Gordon, the youngest of three siblings.
His father Ed, a math and physical education teacher at Sylvandale Middle School in San Jose, played at San Diego State in the early 1980s.
Aaron’s brother Drew also starred at Mitty before signing at UCLA. He clashed with Bruins coach Ben Howland and transferred to New Mexico. Bypassed in the NBA draft, he’s playing professionally in Serbia.
Gordon’s sister Elise plays at Harvard, and his mother Shelly also played in high school.
Gordon still remembers backyard games with his family.
“Those got intense,” he said. “After 45 minutes we’d all be cussing each other out, throwing the ball all over the place and just being mad at each other.
“That’s kind of where it all started. That’s when I fell in love with the game and just competing.”
The backyard basketball wars helped prepare Gordon for what he’s seen this season.
Mitty is two-time Division II state champion in California and hopes for a third title rest with Gordon. However, often times opposing coaches concoct ridiculous schemes to contain him.
After scoring 43 points, the Jesuit Crusaders, Oregon’s four-time defending 6A state champions, committed three players to Gordon while using two to defend Mitty’s other four players.
The defensive tactic limited him to 17 points — his second-lowest scoring output this season. Smothered under the basket, at times he had no recourse other than bulldozing through defenders.
“Teams just don’t play him straight up,” Kennedy said. “We don’t see that. If we do, you see what happens. He scores 43. Most times, we’re facing gimmick defenses and he does a great job of not getting frustrated.
“That’s why we try to score in transition or move him around so he’s not just in one place. You have to change it up so teams can’t gang up on him and he doesn’t get bored.”
Aside from Jesuit’s defense, it was Gordon’s futility at the free-throw line that ultimately led to Mitty’s 76-72 overtime defeat. He converted just 3 of 14 foul shots.
“It’s my fault we lost,” he said afterward. “If I would have made half of my free throws, we would have won.”
The next day, Gordon bounced back and finished with 32 points, 24 rebounds and five blocks in an 85-70 win over the Century Jaguars.
He finished the tournament with a 26-point, 14-rebound performance that led Mitty to a 59-55 victory against West Linn and fifth place.
Before heading home, Gordon said he’s still miffed about the defeat to Jesuit.
“I need a consistent jumper and I need to make free throws,” said Gordon, who averaged 29.5 points in the tournament. “That’s about it.
“I can develop it in high school. I just need time in the gym, which we don’t really have, but that’s what it takes. Time in the gym. It’s just repetition and consistency.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.