WKU recruit Gordon waiting for ‘official word’ on McDonald’s status

Cole Claybourn

WKU signee Derrick Gordon was so impressed by Head Coach Ken McDonald and his program that he committed to play for the Toppers when he was just a sophomore in high school.

Gordon, a senior guard at St. Patrick High School (N.J.), made that commitment official when he signed a National Letter of Intent last October to play at WKU next season.

But this season ended with the team posting a 16-16 record that brought continuous scrutiny of McDonald and uncertainty about his status moving forward. As of Sunday, Todd Stewart, senior associate athletic direcor, told the Herald that the evaluation of McDonald’s future is an “ongoing” process.

Now Gordon, who’s essentially been a walking billboard for WKU basketball the past three years, said he’s left wondering what the next step is for WKU basketball and his future with the program.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors, so I don’t really know who to believe,” Gordon said Saturday. “Truthfully, I do want (McDonald) to come back because I’ve just built such a good relationship with him. But I’m just going to wait until I get the official word of whether he’s going to be back or not.”

This was the second year in a row that WKU failed to make the NCAA tournament after two straight appearances in 2008 and 2009.

Gordon told the Herald after the 2009-10 season that he wouldn’t want to base his decision solely on whether or not a team made the tournament.

But a coaching change is another story.

“If he gets fired, that might change my whole mentality on whether I want to go there or not,” Gordon said. “I thought about it like this — if he gets fired, and (Assistant) Coach (Ray) Harper wasn’t to get the job, I probably would reconsider and get out of my commitment.”

Gordon did say, however, that if McDonald were replaced, he’ll at least take the time to talk to the new coach and hear his plans for the program before making any decisions.

“I don’t want to go to a school where I know I’m not going to like the coach,” he said. “I’ll just have to wait and see. I’ve actually thought about that a lot. It’s definitely going to be a hard decision for me if he leaves because I’m at WKU so much.

“I fell in love with the program.”

Gordon’s decision could have a ripple effect on the other four recruits in the 2011 class. George Rogers Clark power forward Vinny Zollo and Marietta, Ga., forward Nigel Snipes have both previously credited Gordon for helping sell them on WKU.

The Toppers’ other signees are Warren Central forward George Fant and Deng Leek, a center from North Carolina.

If a coaching change were to occur, it’s possible all five committed players could pursue a release from their letters of intent if they so desired.

But if they all stay, Gordon said next year’s team could be “something special.”

“We’re going to be really young, but we’re going to be a talented group,” he said. “A lot of people are underestimating us and saying that we’re going to be worse next year just because we’re going to be so young.

“A lot of people aren’t going to realize what we freshmen are going to be able to bring to the table. We’re going to impress a lot of people.”

Gordon ready to take on leadership role

Gordon will be coming from one of the top high school programs in the country. He’s teammates at St. Patrick with Kentucky commit Michael Gilchrist and faced other top recruits like Austin Rivers and Myles Mack.

Gordon said all of that has only helped to prepare him for the much tougher college game.

And even though he’ll just be a freshman, Gordon said he has every intention of stepping in right away and becoming a leader on the team.

“There’s a lot of weight on my shoulders already, and I really like that,” he said. “It just gives me a lot of energy. I’m not sure what coach McDonald has in mind, but I will probably be one of the go-to guys next year.

“But I’m just going to do whatever I need to do to be a leader. If it’s not scoring, then being the best defender.”