Aaron Gordon

Aaron Gordon: ‘Whatever Coach Miller wants me to play, I’ll play it.’

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It may only be the middle of June, but I can already freely admit that I spend quite a bit of time every day looking forward to the 2013-2014 college hoops season.

The strength of the best rivalries in the country, all the talent that returned to school, all the talent in the 2013 recruiting class, Andrew Wiggins, the new ACC. I could go on and on and on.

But the more I think about it, one of the most intriguing story lines for next season will be Aaron Gordon and the position that he plays in what I’m assuming will be his one and only year on a college campus. I’ve written plenty of words on this topic already, specifically that Gordon would be a much better fit for the Wildcats if he’s playing the four instead of the three, but that his long-term outlook as a prospect is probably on the perimeter.

Here’s the concern I have: Gordon told a reporter in Arizona that his plan was to play on the wing full-time back in late May. Maybe the quote was taken out of context, or maybe Gordon was just talking about what the ideal would be for him, but it set off some red flags. That’s why the most important part of Mike DeCourcy’s story on Gordon from the U-19 trials over the weekend is this line here:

But, Gordon said, “As for next year, I’m just looking to win a national title. So whatever Coach Miller wants me to play, I’ll play it.” And then Gordon issued a genuine warning: “And I’ll thrive at it.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Gordon has the kind of physical gifts that will allow him to do just about whatever he wants to do on a basketball court as long as he puts in the work to get there. In other words, he’s going to be as good of a basketball player as he wants to be. He’s that gifted physically. There’s no reason that, in five years time, he can’t be Paul George or Danny Granger.

But at the collegiate level, Gordon’s best position is at the four. It’s not because he’s a stereotypical power forward, the kind of bruising screener that will remind folks of Charles Oakley.

It’s because he does have those perimeter skills.

He’s athletic enough that he can be a terrific shotblocker and rebounder on the defensive end, but think about the nightmares that opposing coaches are going to have as they try to figure out how their slow-footed, lumbering power forwards will matchup with a guy with Gordon’s range and perimeter ability.

All Gordon has to do is look at a couple of other players in similar situations out west. Mike Moser went from a potential first round pick to an afterthought when he tried to transition to the perimeter. Jamaal Franklin had a much better sophomore year than he did a junior year, and part of that was because he was switched to playing the three full-time.

These days, the ideal collegiate ‘power forward’ can rebound and defend in the paint while having the ability to score and penetrate on the perimeter.

Gordon is the prototype.

I’m just not sure that I see the sense in taking away that advantage.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)