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Following Father's Footsteps

January 24, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty men's basketball alum Eric Gordon (left) sits at No. 16 on the prorgram's all-time scoring list with 1,154 points. However, his son Evan (right) is currently listed at No. 35 with 670 career points.

Liberty men's basketball alum Eric Gordon (left) sits at No. 16 on the prorgram's all-time scoring list with 1,154 points. However, his son Evan (right) is currently listed at No. 35 with 670 career points.

The following article was first featured in the December edition of Flames Illustrated. Heading into this Thursday's home game against UNC Asheville, Liberty guard Evan Gordon has started all 21 contests this season and leads the Flames in scoring, averaging 14.2 points per game.

Growing up in Indianapolis, Ind., a place known as a hoops hotbed, Evan Gordon was a point guard set on taking his skills to the collegiate level. Playing high school ball alongside his brother Eric, who now suits up for the Los Angeles Clippers, he already knew what it was like to play against the likes of Greg Oden, Jeff Teague and others who found success on the college court.

As he sat next to his father in the office of newly hired Liberty men's basketball coach Dale Layer in the spring of 2009, he was given an unexpected proposition.

"We already have our starting point guard [Jesse Sanders] and a leading scorer [Kyle Ohman] coming back," Layer informed Gordon. "Would you be okay with playing five minutes per game?"

"I wasn't really sure how to take that," Gordon said, reminiscing about the conversation. "I had never played only five minutes a game."

During the closed door meeting, Layer noted that none of Gordon's potential teammates had scored a single point for him as head coach. In other words, everyone was beginning with a clean slate and only the top five players would receive the starting nod.

Faced with the ultimatum of returning to prep school at Hargrave Military Academy or stepping into a scenario saturated with uncertainty, the 6-2 guard remained confident in his abilities and elected to join the Flames' roster.

While Gordon was a last-minute addition to Liberty's lineup, his name was familiar to Flames fans. Apart from being the younger brother of an NBA player, his father, Eric Gordon, Sr., was a three-year letter winner at Liberty during the university's NAIA days. As a member of the Flames, Eric Sr., finished his collegiate career with 1,154 career points and is currently 16th on the program's all-time scoring list.

With expectations high, Evan proved in his first season that being the last signee of Liberty's 2009-10 squad was merely a formality. In the Flames' seventh contest of the season on Nov. 29, 2009, he received a starting position, posting 14 points and four rebounds in a 72-53 win over Mississippi Valley State.

Evan continued to pile on the points throughout the season. Playing inside VMI's Cameron Hall on Jan. 2, the Flames trailed by as much as 18 in the contest. In the second half, Liberty rallied with two 11-0 scoring runs to take the game, 110-102.

Evan concluded the afternoon with a career-high 24 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 shooting from the charity stripe. His performance in the game, combined with his showing at the UCF Holiday Classic earlier in the week, earned him Big South Freshman of the Week honors.

By season's end, Evan was Liberty's second-leading scorer behind Ohman, totaling 372 points (12.0 ppg) on the year. The Indiana native's efforts earned him postseason accolades, as he received a spot on the Big South All-Freshman team and Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) All-State Rookie of the Year honors.

While Evan says both honors are special to him, the latter bears a specific degree of significance. In 1984, his father achieved a similar honor, earning a place on the VaSID All-State College Division first team. Now, the father and son tandem resides in an exclusive group within the Liberty record books as two of 16 Flames to receive all-state honors.

"It was an honor to get both awards," Evan said. "My dad was on the all-state team. I didn't even know he had received that award until I was named rookie of the year."

The sophomore says his father watches as many games as possible throughout the season. At the end of each contest, Eric Sr., sends his son a text message or voicemail, offering critiques and tips on how to improve his game.

Dad is not the only family member who gives advice to Evan. Older brother Eric Jr., also provides words of encouragement, reminding his younger sibling to remain strong.

"He always tells me to play confident," Evan said. "Going from high school playing 24 games to college where you play 33-35 games, there's a big change. Some segments of the season you will be off, but you just have to stay confident in your game."

Although their busy schedules make it difficult, the two brothers still find time to reconnect and play a little one-on-one.

"We had a chance to play a couple times this summer," Evan noted. "It's really a challenge to play him because he's so strong, but I definitely surprised him a little bit."

While older brother Eric may still have the advantage when the brothers square off on the court, there is one game Evan is able to earn the "W" over the NBA guard.

"I think I'm better at ping pong than I am at basketball, honestly," he stated.
When asked if he could beat his brother in a game of table tennis, the younger Gordon responded with a confident, "Oh yeah."

"I went to the Indiana Ping Pong Association," he added. "I did not play in the professional tournaments, but I was able to play against those players. The U.S. Olympic team came and I played against them, as well."

Despite his ability to play ping pong at a high level, Evan's future plans are focused primarily on improving his game on the basketball court. As he approaches the 500-point mark at Liberty, a sentimental milestone looms in the distance. Through the first quarter of his sophomore season, Evan is steadily approaching his dad's Liberty career point total of 1,154.

"I really haven't thought about trying to beat his record, but it's always something to laugh about at the dinner table," he remarked. "I hope to surpass him during my career here, but it's a goal worth looking forward to."


Eric Brown is an Assistant Athletics Communications Director for Liberty University, assigned to cover men's basketball.