The men’s basketball team got off on a good foot to the 2019-20 season with a 4-0 start. With a mostly young but talented roster, it looked like the season was headed in the right direction.
That changed when the team traveled to the Fort Myers Tip-Off — the beginning of a 4-8 stretch, including an 0-4 start in Big 12 play.
Freshman guard DaJuan Gordon decided to step up and help this team get back on track.
“I’m just tired of losing,” Gordon told the media when asked what motivated him to step up in his play.
From the beginning of the season, it was evident that the Chicago, native had talent. 247Sports rated Gordon the No. 3 prospect in Illinois,and he was one of 34 that was invited to participate in the training camp for the 2019 USA Basketball Men’s U-19 World Cup Team.
After the Saint Louis game on Dec. 21, his streak of playing 20 minutes per game began — Gordon recorded 21 minutes against the Billikens.
In the Big 12 opener against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, Oklahoma, he played 27 minutes and scored eight points.
As far as Big 12 play goes, the lowest time Gordon recorded was 21 minutes against in-state rival Kansas in Lawrence. On the other end, he played for 33 minutes in the Big 12 season game against Texas Tech — the only game he started in. In the following game against then-ranked No. 12 West Virginia, he scored a season high of 15 points as he helped the Wildcats upset the Mountaineers and end the initial loss streak in conference play.
Senior forward Xavier Sneed, who returned for his senior season to be the key leader on the team, gave compliments to Gordon on his leadership.
“Being as vocal as he is as a freshman,” Sneed said, “he does a great job of just coming out and competing every day.”
Gordon imagined being a leader coming into this season.
“I’m just being myself,” Gordon said. “I’ve always been kind of a leader.”
Head coach Bruce Weber mentioned an all-time Kansas State great — one who he coached — in comparing Gordon’s leadership qualities.
“He loves to play. I’ve said that since the beginning — he is a lot like Barry [Brown],” Weber said. “He has that determination, that grit that he competes all the time. He always tells us coaches that we need to do more competitive drills. He just loves it. He loves the game. Everyone is a little frustrated because we are losing and he wants to win, so he is speaking up because he wants to win – and he backs it up with his play. He plays so hard.”
Gordon plays at full force until the second half game clock hits 0.00.
In the Wildcats’ 50-64 loss to the Texas Longhorns on Jan. 11 in Austin, Texas, the Wildcats held up in the beginning, but eventually the Longhorns managed to pull away. Despite being down 14 in the later part of the second half, Gordon continued to play with effort.
“I still felt like we had a chance to win,” Gordon said. “Continue to play hard and try to get the win.”
Weber touched on Gordon’s effort.
“You don’t win in the [Big 12] if you don’t have grit, determination and resilience – and he has that,” Weber said.
Weber said Gordon has the “heart of a lion.” Gordon said growing up in Chicago helped him develop that.
“Playing basketball and not getting anything,” Gordon said. “Having to work for myself. Being in the gym late at night with my uncle, just not being scared of nobody.”
The 6-foot-4 freshman is continuing to work hard to do whatever it takes to get this K-State team on a winning track.
“He wants to get better,” Weber said. “He constantly watches film. He constantly texts me and the other coaches — it’s very important to him.”