ANAHEIM, Calif. — The jaw-dropping, high-altitude, one-handed, lob-catching, tomahawk-dunking, Blake Griffin impersonation that Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon dropped on San Diego State Thursday night was not quite the revelation to Ed and Shelly Gordon as it was to some witnesses.
They didn't quite yawn, but there was definitely a been-there, seen-that reaction from Gordon's parents.
"I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I've been watching that since he was in the ninth grade," says Gordon's mother, Shelly. "It's nice that the whole basketball community is now seeing his skill set. It's always fun to see him make plays like that. You can see how it energizes the crowd and everybody breathes a little easier."
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Everybody rooting for Arizona, that is.
That would include Gordon's father, Ed, even though it meant rooting against his alma mater. Ed was a forward for San Diego State in the early 1980s, a teammate of Tony Gwynn and Michael Cage.
Were his loyalties divided as he watched Arizona and San Diego State battle fiercely in an NCAA tournament West regional semifinal in the Honda Center Thursday night?
"A little bit, absolutely," Ed says. "That's my alma mater. It's nice to see where the program came from and where it's going. I feel a part of getting it all started. At the same time, that's my baby out there. I have to go with blood."
The blood that courses through the Gordon family is full of athletic genes. Ed, who stands 6-6, was a starting forward at San Diego State, known then as "Eddy." He married Shelly Davis, who had played sports in high school. Their first son, Drew, 23, played basketball at UCLA and New Mexico and is a pro in Italy. Their daughter, Elise, 21, is a senior basketball player at Harvard. And Aaron, 18, is a breakout star in the NCAA tournament and a lottery pick, if he chooses, in this summer's NBA draft.
Gordon is the highest-rated potential 2014 draft pick still playing in the NCAA tournament.
The 6-9, 225-pound forward whose dunking, rebounding, defense and passing Thursday night continued to make him look more like a senior than a freshman, says he is a combination of his parents.
"Athleticism from my dad," he says. "Brains from my mom."
His mother is a high-tech computer whiz for Altera, a Silicon Valley company. His father is no slouch in the brains department, either. He's a teacher at Sylvandale Middle School in San Jose, Calif.
They are both in Anaheim this week, proud of their youngest and, like all the Gordons, full of confidence.
"Of course we're going to Texas next week," Shelly says. "Already got our tickets."
The Final Four is next weekend in Arlington, Texas. Arizona and young Gordon will be there if Arizona (33-4), the No. 1 seed in the West, beats No. 2 seed Wisconsin (29-7) on Saturday night.
Gordon's parents talked with USA TODAY Sports about the Gordon family journey through sports and how Aaron became one of the most-talked-about basketball players in the country.
One of the things that Gordon's teammates and his coach Sean Miller rave about is the energy he brings to the game.
His parents have seen that since, oh, about the time Aaron learned how to walk.
"He always played hard," Ed says.
"All three of them are like that," Shelly says. "They're all high-motor people."
When Ed and Shelly saw they had serious ballplayers for kids, they put in a court in their backyard, and the game was on.
Eventually, dunks became a part of the game.
"I've dunked on my dad two or three times," Aaron says, a little sheepishly. "We all dunked on each other."
His father was a dunker once, too, Aaron says. "My dad was an absolute dunker," he says. "He's told me about dunk contests and dunks he did. I'd say, 'No way you did that.' Then I got older and was doing the same dunks and I was like, 'Oh, now I see.' "
About the time Aaron was 14 or 15, he could beat his dad one on one. How did his dad take it?
"Not bad," he says. "But he'd still run his mouth even though he lost."
That was also about the time Ed got more physical with Aaron.
"About the time he was in ninth grade, starting high school, I decided to teach him what a good hard foul is," Ed says, chuckling. "He learned to score through it. So I thought I taught him a good lesson."
Nobody had to teach him to be competitive.
"I hate losing," Aaron says, to which his parents respond with nods like weary survivors.
"Everything was a competition," Shelly says. "Who could eat their cereal the fastest? Just getting in the car was a problem. Getting stuck in the door, calling shotgun, sitting on each other."
Ed was the designated parent to break up squabbles in the backyard games.
But the Gordon kids have emerged with close relationships. Aaron says he looks forward to working out this summer with Drew, who will be attempting to win a job in the NBA. And the family has talked about Elise, who hopes to go to law school with designs on becoming a sports and entertainment lawyer, finding a law school in Aaron's NBA city and living with him.
Gordon, who averages 12.5 points and 7.7 rebounds, looks like a terrific NBA prospect. He can shoot with range. He's a willing passer and a driven defender. He can handle the ball. He has huge hops, and his finishes on lobs from Arizona guards Nick Johnson, T.J. McConnell and Gabe York are a series of whoas and aahs.
Asked to compare himself to an NBA model, Gordon says: "Scottie Griffin – a combination of Scottie Pippen and Blake Griffin. The defensive intensity of Pippen, and his ability to handle the ball. And I love Blake Griffin's athleticism."
Drew has a degree from New Mexico. Elise will graduate next month from Harvard. Are Gordon's parents OK with him leaving college after one year?
They say it's up to Aaron. But they expect him to eventually get his college degree, no matter when he decides to enter the NBA.
"One of Aaron's aspirations is become a coach at the Division I level," Ed says. "So he would need a degree for that. Plus, and this goes back to his competitive nature, he would be the only one of the three without a degree. We don't see that happening."
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