DaJuan Gordon didn’t play quite well enough at Team USA tryouts to join Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber at the U19 World Cup this summer in Greece, but the freshman guard still represented himself and the Wildcats at a high level this week.
By all accounts, Gordon held his own against top competition.
“It was great for him,” Weber said in a phone interview. “I hope he takes it as a positive and as a great experience. He went against college players who have played and he went against the elite younger guys in our country, and he handled himself well. One of the days, he played as well as anybody out there.”
That much was obvious by some of the highlights that made their way on social media following the trials.
One showed Gordon, a 6-foot-3 guard from Chicago, leaping into the air and throwing down a put-back dunk in a crowded lane.
That play left K-State fans drooling over his potential with the Wildcats. Weber was just as encouraged after watching it live.
“He plays so hard,” Weber said. “He was one of the top players when it came to offensive rebounds. He had a couple amazing tip dunks. He was up there in steals, too. His lack of experience — he fouled a lot — kind of held him back. But he has worked on his three ball. That was not one of his strengths going into his senior year and he has just put a lot of time into it. I bet he was at least 40 percent from three in all the different sessions. He definitely caught our attention.”
A committee of Team USA basketball officials watched 32 players compete against each other earlier this week and then whittled that group down to 18 finalists for the World Cup roster on Tuesday.
Gordon missed the cut.
Weber coached the entire group, but the committee was in charge of selecting the field. He wanted Gordon to advance, but Weber understood when Gordon didn’t make it.
“I don’t know if the whole thing took a toll on him or what, but he didn’t get quite as much done after that first day,” Weber said. “The other guys were a little bit better. But he made it tough. He really did well.”
This experience should help Gordon as he embarks on his inaugural year of college basketball with the Wildcats.
The four-star recruit arrived at K-State with high expectations earlier this month, but his play at the Team USA trials have raised them even higher.
It’s not hard to see him making an immediate impact next season as he competes for a starting guard spot as the Wildcats look to replace Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes in their back court.
“One of the other coaches told him, ‘Man, I just love your game and I would not be surprised if in two years you are kicking all these guys’ butts and you are all-conference,’” Weber said. “It was a nice compliment for him that, hopefully, he takes and moves forward and helps him put some time in the weight room this summer.”