Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Healthy Drew Gordon sparks surging Lobos
No one could've seen Drew Gordon performing at an All-American level.
Not even Gordon -- who arrived at New Mexico in 2010-11 as a castoff from a UCLA program that was watching players transfer out in search of higher, more stable ground.
Part of Gordon's problem has been injuries. The rash of bad luck started with a broken hand suffered during his junior season in high school in San Jose. Then he suffered a stress fracture in his foot. He tore his meniscus in his right knee when he was at UCLA and tore the same ligament while recovering.
Drew Gordon came up big in New Mexico's wins over San Diego State and UNLV this past week.
His numbers at UCLA were decent in his second season, when he averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. And last season, he averaged a double-double at 13.0 ppg and 10.5 rpg, but he wasn't completely ready to lead the Lobos.
He said he transferred from UCLA to New Mexico because he wanted to run and didn't like playing in a half-court offense. But if he wasn't completely healthy, he'd settle and be a half-court player.
And this season started with Gordon unsure if he was going to live up to his potential yet again.
"I tweaked my knee, and it was pretty sore for a while," Gordon said. "I was real hesitant and cautious about going to the basket. I thought that it could be coming to an end. I thought what if I can't play the game. I had put in so much hard work."
Gordon finally got healthy, and so did the Lobos. New Mexico struggled in the nonconference part of the schedule, losing to rival New Mexico State at the Pit and falling to Santa Clara in overtime in the 76 Classic in Anaheim in November.
Then the team started to mesh. Kendall Williams and Hugh Greenwood were more than capable at the point. The depth, which included Tony Snell, Jamal Fenton, Demetrius Walker, Phillip McDonald and Cameron Bairstow, gave the Lobos options. And the defense was on lockdown, holding Saint Louis to 60 points, Oklahoma State to 56 points or most recently UNLV to 45 points.
The Lobos haven't had a bad loss since the Santa Clara game on Nov. 24. The only two losses since November have been to San Diego State on Jan. 18 and at UNLV on Jan. 21. They've won seven in a row, highlighted by the best week of Gordon's career. He scored 17 points and grabbed 17 boards in the win over the Aztecs in San Diego and then scored 27 points and grabbed 20 boards in the home win over UNLV.
"We were confident for the wrong reasons early," Gordon said. "We were confident, but we had too much hype in the preseason. We were about us rather than being a really good team.
"Now we're more confident in ourselves," Gordon said. "It's make or break time for us three seniors. And the younger kids really want to win. UNLV and San Diego State were getting a lot of love, and we weren't. We had to rely on each other."
Gordon has now moved ahead of Mike Moser, a former UCLA Bruin, as the favorite for MWC player of the year.
The Lobos are done playing UNLV and SDSU until the MWC tournament in Las Vegas. And they hold a two-game lead over both those schools in the standings. New Mexico plays at Colorado State on Tuesday night and visits TCU on Saturday before hosting Air Force and Boise State to close the regular season.
"We've got to be focused, we're coming off two really good wins against ranked teams," Gordon said. "Coach [Steve] Alford is pushing us to make sure we don't do anything like sit back and relax."