COLUMN: The saga of ‘Mr. Hilltopper’ comes to end


Freshman guard Derrick Gordon, No. 5, announced on Thursday that he’ll transfer from WKU. Gordon committed to WKU during his sophomore year of high school and played a big role in getting other members of the freshman class to sign with WKU.

Brad Stephens

Believe it or not, Derrick Gordon only played here one year.

I know, it seems like the 6-foot-3 guard has been at WKU for a lot longer.


I first heard of him when I was a freshman in the fall of 2009, two whole years before he got to college.

A friend told me about this guy from New Jersey, a big-time recruit who had chosen WKU over other, bigger schools.

This guy wanted so badly to get here and be a star that as a high school junior he had already labeled himself “Mr. Hilltopper.”

And as Topper basketball grew worse and worse over the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons, the legend of this Mr. Hilltopper became bigger.

Gordon recruited as hard as the coaches, trying to get other players of his caliber to play their college ball in Bowling Green, convincing recruits they could be part of a reset of WKU basketball.

He and his friends came to WKU and accomplished just that.

They turned a lost season into a Sun Belt Conference title, an NCAA Tournament berth and hope for the future.

Now, just weeks after they did it — poof — Gordon’s gone.

Mr. Hilltopper is gone from WKU, transferring to a school to be determined, in order to be closer to his family.

On the surface his transfer from WKU doesn’t make much sense.

This guy, driven by fame and attention, had all he could’ve wanted here in Bowling Green.

But sometimes a guy just has to be back home.

Gordon has a well-documented family situation concerning his incarcerated brother.

As a guy close to my two younger brothers, I can’t begin to imagine how heavily it’s weighed on Gordon to focus on Division I college basketball while your best friend is locked up in prison.

Even without that situation, he was still in a place far from home, where his parents couldn’t come watch him play.

Gordon’s coach, Ray Harper, faced a similar situation himself years ago, when he played college basketball at Texas, hours away from his Muhlenberg Co., roots.

He eventually came back home to Kentucky Wesleyan College, where he finished out his career just down the road from where he grew up.

So Harper didn’t have any hard feelings toward Gordon when he talked to media on Thursday, and neither should WKU fans.

In the end, Gordon is doing what’s best for him and his family.

But it’s sure not how we expected the legend of Mr. Hilltopper to end.