WKU’s newcomers impressive in first game as Toppers

Freshman forward George Fant (L) and freshman guard Derrick Gordon congratulate gather in line to shake the hands of Xavier’s basketball team. WKU beat Xavier 61-73.

Cole Claybourn

Before the question could even be

completed, freshman Derrick Gordon laughed about how nervous he was

heading in to Saturday’s exhibition game against Xavier


“First college basketball game — I

believe every freshman goes through it. I had butterflies,” Gordon

said. “But once I got my first bucket and got the crowd involved, I

fed off the crowd.”

It was the first chance for nine

newcomers to play a game in front of the Diddle Arena


After a slow start, WKU — which

started three freshmen — outlasted Xavier for a 73-61


Freshman forward Nigel Snipes said

he too felt some “jitters” when he took the court.

Head Coach Ken McDonald said that’s

natural for young players to feel that way. But he said he didn’t

see nerves affecting the young players like he expected.

“There were a couple times when it

was all freshmen on the court and you think you’re going to see

some really sloppy basketball,” he said. “But we’re going to throw

these guys in the fire. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows they’re

going to play.”

Snipes and Gordon both said once the

game got going, out went the nerves.

Snipes posted a double-double — 11

points and 11 rebounds — while Gordon led all scorers with 17

points to go along with three rebounds and three steals.

Freshman forward George Fant and

freshman guard T.J. Price started alongside Gordon. Fant scored

seven points and pulled down five rebounds while Price scored 12


Gordon played 36 minutes — the most

of any player on the floor.

Senior guard Kahlil McDonald praised

Gordon’s stamina as well as Snipes’ double-double and said he was

impressed by how well the newcomers played their first time


“I think they did

good,” he said. “A bunch of young guys, a lot of true freshmen.

They did real good — played hard. I think they all put in a good

amount of work.”

Of the seven newcomers who played,

six scored and totaled 50 of WKU’s 73 points.

Along with Gordon, Snipes and Price, Kahlil McDonald

was the other Topper in double figures with 11 points.

The balanced scoring is something Ken McDoanld said

he hopes to see the rest of the season.

“If everyone can contribute, I think everyone’s going

to be happy,” he said. “There’s different ways to contribute — some

might be scoring, some might be rebounding, some might be a

defensive presence.”

Sophomore forward Stephon Drane and

junior guard Caden Dickerson both sat out Saturday. Drane is still

recovering from a hyper-extended knee, while Dickerson was nursing

a sore shoulder that he hurt in practice last week.

Dickerson is expected back this week

and ready for WKU’s season-opener against St. Joseph’s on


Until that game, Ken McDonald said

there are a few things for the Toppers to work on.

“Our post defense needs to get

significantly better,” he said. “I thought our perimeter defense

was pretty good, but now we just can’t allow the ball in the post

that easy. 

“We’ve got to make a big jump in the

next week and continue to work on that, but this is a good starting