Wichita State Shockers

This WSU basketball signee reminds Gregg Marshall of Tigger from ‘Winnie the Pooh’

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall will lead the Shockers to a first-round NIT game on Wednesday at Furman. Furman coach Bob Richey still remembers how good Marshall’s teams at Winthrop were.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall will lead the Shockers to a first-round NIT game on Wednesday at Furman. Furman coach Bob Richey still remembers how good Marshall’s teams at Winthrop were. File photo

When Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall watches incoming 2019 recruit DeAntoni Gordon play basketball, he can’t help but think of a cartoon character who looks like he’s jumping on a pogo stick.

“DeAntoni is a guy that can run and bounce like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh,” Marshall said on his radio show. “He’s quick and fast and boy, can he get off the ground and get to the rim.”

Gordon, a 6-foot-8, 185-pound forward from Mobile, Alabama, has been committed to the Shockers since April 2017. After signing his letter of intent with WSU last fall, Gordon finished his high school career with a standout season at LeFlore in Mobile.

He averaged 21 points, nearly 10 rebounds and three blocks, leading LeFlore to a 23-win season and into the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Gordon was named the Alabama.com Coastal Player of the Year on top of being a unanimous first-team all-class player and a finalist for Class 5A Player of the Year.

The more than two-year wait to arrive to Wichita will end at the start of June when Gordon will start summer workouts with the team and begin training for the 2019-20 season.

“I’ve been waiting to head to college for a long time now,” Gordon said. “I’m ready, for sure. I think I’ve developed as a person and as a basketball player in the last year, so I’m ready for the challenges of college. I’ll be ready in June.”

Like most incoming freshmen, Gordon’s top priority this summer will be establishing a dedication to the weight room.

Marshall doesn’t doubt Gordon has the athletic ability to play right away in the American Athletic Conference, but he knows Gordon, currently a lean 185, will need to bulk up to be able to hold his own for rebounds and defense in a high-caliber conference.

“Right now he’s thin, so he’s going to have to get stronger,” Marshall said. “How he acclimates to the strength and physicality of the college game is going to be the key for him. He is very talented, though.”

That’s a challenge Gordon is ready to embrace this summer with WSU strength and conditioning coach Kerry Rosenboom.

“My main focus is trying to get bigger for the next level,” Gordon said. “I know at the next level everybody is going to be bigger and better and stronger. So I’ve really focused on getting bigger this last year and I’m ready to work this summer.”

The incentive of playing time at power forward right away might be there for Gordon. Graduating senior Markis McDuffie played nearly all of the minutes there last season and his backup, Rod Brown, is transferring from WSU.

Trey Wade, a 6-7 junior-college transfer, was recruited as a plug-and-play option at that position, but the rest behind him is unclear. WSU could probably get away playing undersized players like Dexter Dennis (6-5) and Teddy Allen (6-5) minutes at power forward, but depending on Gordon’s development he could carve out a spot in the rotation early.

The scouting report on Gordon is he is a tremendous athlete who is a relentless rebounder and uses his length and athleticism as a plus shot-blocker. He has a knack for offensive rebounds and can be trouble for teams in transition when he can build steam going toward the rim and finish with powerful dunks.

The biggest criticisms of his game was his shooting and dribbling ability, but Gordon has developed rapidly in the past year in both of those categories to become a more polished player. His senior-year highlights are no longer just rebounds, blocks and dunks, although there are plenty of those.

Gordon’s game has evolved to include pull-up jumpers and catch-and-shoot 3s — even one where Gordon dribbled the ball up, crossed over his defender and drained a 3 over him.

“Now I can shoot it and knock down the 3-ball if I have to,” Gordon said. “I’ve really been working on my dribbling and shooting and I believe I’ve improved a lot over a short period of time. I’ve been guarding bigger people than me for awhile now, so that shouldn’t be a problem. I’m excited to show WSU what I can do.”

That skill-set has national recruiting evaluators like Rivals’ Corey Evans excited about Gordon’s upside.

“Not only do I think that Gordon is a steal for the Shockers, but he also found the ideal college landing spot where players in his ilk have starred at,” Evans wrote. “He should be appreciated for his glue-like abilities in the frontcourt and the motor that he possesses.”

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