In the article senior national team coach, and 2008 Olympics coach Mike Krzyzewski, in San Antonio for a national team training session, calls out seventeen-year-old Eric Gordon of North Central High School in Indianapolis saying that, “Eric Gordon…should actually be here.” Krzyzewski was a bit miffed that Gordon was actually taking part in the Indiana v. Kentucky all star series instead of Coach K’s Patriotism 101 class as noted by Krzyzewski who went on to say that, “"If a kid gets an opportunity to play for his country, whether you're playing at the Nike camp, the Adidas camp or the Indiana-Kentucky all-star (series), it should be no decision." Did I mention that Gordon verbally committed to Illinois after being told by Duke officials that, “I was their No. 1 target.” That might make J.J. Redick cry even harder.
Eric Gordon wasn’t the only top player to avoid the training session, and his is not the first story of a USA team forsaken for personal interests. (The Times story cited a phone interview with Gordon where he said, “I just haven't been that much interested in going, really.”) The real issue is that pride has stiff competition when it comes to the Division-1 recruiting process and current or prospective NBA careers.
Take any high school junior and spend six months to four years telling him that he’s “outstanding” – as Krzyzewski called Gordon – not to mention no doubt promising that this school decision is likely the most important of his life and see if he’ll jump at the chance to represent the red, white & blue while weighed down by such a big head. Oh, don’t forget that this kid has every delusion of a professional career and your “school” is most likely a means to an end. It’s get rich or die tryin’ these days and Uncle Sam’s wallet don’t shine like Mark Cuban’s. These kids aren’t looking for pride. They’re looking to get paid.
Illinois sports blog Illinitalk hits on excellent points about Coach K compromising his professional integrity to comment on a teenager’s loyalty to ma and apple pie. You want to blame someone Mike, look in the mirror at the guy in the suit courtesy of American Express. You’re a part of an engine that coddles these athletes as commodities then despises them when they act like the kids that they are.
I know that there are in fact patriotic athletes populating our high schools, and I do agree that citizens shouldn’t so easily shirk an opportunity to represent their country. But when you stack a professional career, national exposure, and an appearance on Cribs against a chance to play Argentina – and probably lose – you’re not going to win over a kid with a biology quiz and 30 D-1 coaches breathing down his neck. USA Basketball has a tall order ahead of itself. Chuck Daly called the 1992 Dream Team “majestic.” Eric Gordon and the others who turned down the national team may be outstanding, but basketball in America is far from majestic. Krzyzewski and his ilk calling these kids out with a scholarship in one hand and the patriot whoopin’ stick in the other will not improve the situation.