George Dohrmann’s article in Sports Illustrated about the downfall of the UCLA basketball program from February shined a negative light on everyone involved with the team during the four years since the Bruins have made a Final Four.
Reeves Nelson is the most public case, as the accusations made against him — that he wasn’t punished for intentionally injuring teammates and that he peed on Tyler Honeycutt’s clothes and bed as revenge for Honeycutt snitching about a party — were the most shocking and sever. Nelson is currently suing the magazine for $10 million in an effort to clean up his image.
Former UCLA teammate Drew Gordon is taking a different approach, one that is much more likely to result in hearing his name called come draft day. Gordon’s not denying what happened. He’s not justifying it, either. He’s taking responsibility for it, owning it, while making it known that his past is his past:
“We were freshmen, and we weren’t getting much playing time,” Gordon said. “So we did take advantage of the college life and make some ill-advised decisions. But when I read that article, there was so much negativity there. It was hurtful.”
It was worse from a mother’s perspective.
“I’m trying hard as a mom to let that stuff roll off my back, but it’s not easy,” said Shelly Davis, a senior manager of technical communications with the semiconductor Altera Corporation in Silicon Valley. “Drew was only 17 when he went to college. And in that situation, he was not reacting well. The coaches were not reacting well. There were times when I wondered when anybody was going to act like an adult. Then the players acted out. It wasn’t a real healthy situation.”
Gordon can be emotional on the court. His mother calls it an “ice-hockey mentality,” which should be no surprise, considering that was his first sport. He turned to basketball only after outgrowing skates and suffering a series of concussions.
Think about it like this: we all did dumb things when we were freshmen in college, and none of us were basketball players at UCLA. Asking a 17 year old phenom that is supposed to be the next star of a team in LA coming off of three straight Final Fours to carry himself as a professional is quite a request.
But Gordon learned. He matured. And now he’s preparing for this draft with the confidence that NBA teams will see that.
“Once people get a sense of my character and have a chance to see how I really act, they’ll realize that the impression of that article is not accurate,” he said.
And nothing proves that more than the fact that he’s not denying what happened.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.