NCAA Basketball Recruiting: Pros and Cons for Each Aaron Gordon Suitor
The most common and tantalizing player comp for San Jose native Aaron Gordon (No. 4, ESPN 100) is Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin.
As with any projection, the Gordon-Griffin link has its superficialities (both players look similar physically) and its legitimate talking points (both have serious hops), but ultimately is little more than a way to generate cheap buzz.
What we do know is that scouts regard the ''tweener" forward as an elite player in a loaded 2013 class, and that Gordon's school decision has boiled down to Kentucky, Oregon, Washington and Arizona.
Ahead we'll try to map out each school's appeal, as well as its potential pitfalls.
The John Calipari pitch is simple: "Give me one good year and I'll make you rich."
How can you argue with that logic?
Coach Cal has turned a host of green 18-year-olds into significantly greener 19-year-olds. And it doesn't hurt that a few of them are on their way to massive paycheck No. 2 in the not-to-distance future.
Interaction with Some of the Players
ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep made an interesting observation regarding Gordon's participation in the upcoming McDonald's All-American game.
At the McDonald's game, Gordon will play on the same team with four Kentucky recruits: twins Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison, Marcus Lee and James Young. John Calipari essentially has Gordon surrounded in this game.
Kids talk. Kids cajole. Kids recruit.
And it looks like Gordon will be getting an earful from next year's Wildcat class in Chicago.
Lexington is one heck of a basketball town, and the Wildcats are always in the national title hunt.
Don't let 2012-13 fool you, this team will be a serious contender in next year's SEC.
Plenty of Talent Already
Kentucky already has two forwards signed (James Young and Marcus Lee) and another almost certainly returning (Kyle Wiltjer).
The Wildcats also have their hat in the ring for the only two available recruits ranked higher than Gordon: Andrew Wiggins (SF) and Julius Randle (PF). If either of those two chooses Big Blue, Gordon seems unlikely to sign with Kentucky.
And even if they don't, you have to wonder if it's a bit too crowded in Lexington already.
Far From Home
Kentucky is the only school on this list not in the Pac-12.
The fact that Kentucky bucked that trend and made Gordon's final four is certainly encouraging, but you still have to think his heart is out west.
It would seem Gordon prefers a closer-to-home fit.
Because recent Husky teams haven't advanced as deep in the tournament as, say, Kentucky, UCLA or Baylor, it's easy to forget how prolific Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has been with regard to underclassmen entering the NBA draft.
Spencer Hawes, Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten Jr. and Jon Brockman all made the leap since Romar took the reins in 2002.
Gordon has to like that track record.
Definite Starting Potential
Washington would be a roll-out-the-ball-and-let-him-take-over kind of choice for Gordon.
The Huskies have some notable talent, but nothing in the frontcourt that would keep Gordon from the starting lineup on day one.
Blue-chip point guard prospect Nigel Williams-Goss is already headed to Seattle and would make a nice running mate for Gordon if the big man chose to follow.
One-and-Done Could Be a Problem
If we're going to highlight Washington's prep-to-pro pipeline, we should also acknowledge the one high-profile failure.
Point guard Abdul Gaddy came to Washington in 2009 as perhaps the most decorated recruit in school history. Four years—and one major knee injury—later, Gaddy is a league-average senior point guard for the Huskies.
How much of the blame belongs with Gaddy's knee and how much with the program is hard to say, but it has to be a factor when considering one-and-done talent.
Not a Great Supporting Cast
The Seattle team isn't especially strong.
This year's results suggest that the Huskies might be more than one year (and one player) from serious contention.
Gordon recently added Oregon to his list, meaning he sees something he likes in Dana Altman's team.
More than likely, that something is a 23-6 record and a No. 19 ranking in the polls. The Ducks have now won 20 games in each of Altman's first three seasons, marking them as a program on the rise.
Definite Starting Potential
As it would be at Washington, Gordon should be an instant starter and difference-maker at Oregon.
A Friendly Face
Oregon point guard Dominic Artis—a well-regarded freshman—played travel ball with Gordon in California.
There will never be a shortage of resources in the Oregon athletic department, at least not as long as Nike chairman Phil Knight and his checkbook are still hanging around. The Ducks' new home court is named after Knight's late son.
May Not Be Able to Handle Gordon
Some good talent has passed through Eugene over the years, but Gordon would easily be the most heralded recruit to choose Oregon in recent memory.
As a corollary to that, we should note that this program has had little experience with potential one-and-done talent. In fact I can't find a single Oregon freshman who declared for the NBA draft in the last decade.
Oregon would be uncharted waters for a player of Gordon's caliber.
Lack of Consistency
Former Oregon coach Ernie Kent went 32-53 over his last three seasons in Eugene (2007-10).
Those kinds of depths are generally reserved for lesser programs, and it highlights the fact that Oregon hasn't had the kind of consistent recent success that other schools on this list have enjoyed.
The 23-6 record this year looks nice, but will it hold up?
Earlier we mentioned that Oregon was a late add to Gordon's list; this has about as many negative connotations as positive ones.
Obviously Gordon wanted to reopen the file, but that alone doesn't annul his earlier concerns—whatever they were.
There aren't many programs in America with Arizona's winning pedigree, and even fewer west of the Mississippi.
The Wildcats haven't had a losing season since 1983-84. Head coach Sean Miller seems to have righted the ship after a brief lull when Lute Olson left.
While Arizona hasn't produced as many one-and-done players as Kentucky and Washington, there are enough success stories on record to establish this program's legitimacy when it comes to producing next-level talent.
As of 2012-13, there were nine former Arizona players on NBA rosters.
Plenty of Talent Already
Arizona has a modified version of the Kentucky problem: too many frontcourt players.
Last year, the Wildcats signed Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley.
All three were blue-chip bigs.
Jerrett and Tarczewski were both ranked in ESPN's top ten, and all three should be back next season. And small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (No. 16, ESPN 100) will be joining them, leaving Gordon with precious little elbow room.
Limited Time on the Court
Part of the reason Tarczewski, Jerrett and Ashley should all be back next season is that neither got a ton of touches.
Sean Miller gave the bulk of his frontcourt minutes to senior Solomon Hill, which makes one wonder if Gordon would have to wait his turn in Tucson.