Western Kentucky Basketball: A Small Glimmer of Hope

Jordan BallCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2012

Gordon goes for a steal against Louisville's Russ Smith
Gordon goes for a steal against Louisville's Russ SmithAndy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2011-2012 season has been a rough one for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

The team that was labeled one of the best mid-major teams just a few years ago has had a long fall from glory, and it appears now that they have hit rock bottom.

In a season that started out promising with a great recruiting class of eight freshmen, things quickly turned south once the games began.

The few high points included taking undefeated Murray State and the University of Louisville down to the wire before falling off towards the end.

The low points, which are too many to name, are highlighted (lowlighted?) by losing in overtime to Louisiana-Lafayette, who had six players on the court when they get hit the game-winner.

As you know, the referees didn't catch it so the final score stands. Afterwards Head Coach Ken McDonald was relieved of his duties..

Now that leaves the Tops with interim coach Ray Harper and a 5-14 record (1-5 in the Sun Belt).

The team is 0-3 under his authority, and though they have shown fight at times, it's clear that things aren't likely to improve much anytime this season. So what, or should I say who, can they turn to for hope?

The answer is simple: freshman guard Derrick Gordon. 

Gordon's story is reason alone to believe in him, but his numbers give you the certainty needed. With 19 games down and 10 to go in the regular season, Gordon has led his team in more ways than one.

Besides being the on-court emotional leader, he is also the leader numbers-wise.

So far the 6'2" guard is the leader in minutes, points, assists and rebounds per game. He spends most of his time at the 2 position due to junior Jamal Crook running the point, but occasionally when Crook is out, he'll take over the point. He's a natural shooter who is getting his chance to shine now at Western. 

WKU was extremely excited to have Gordon come down and play for them, and he has not disappointed. Hailing from New Jersey, he attended the historic St. Patrick's High School and played alongside the likes of Cleveland Cavalier guard Kyrie Irving, Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and North Carolina's Dexter Strickland.

With that kind of talent surrounding him, he never got his true chance to shine as their go-to guy, but now that he is on the hill, he's getting all that and more. 

He's not just standing out at Western, either.

Besides leading his team, Gordon ranks in the top 20 in the Sun Belt Conference in points, assists and rebounds The most impressive of those is that he is as high as sixth in rebounding.

The five who rank above him are all forwards or centers and have as much as seven inches on him.

As a Hilltopper fan, you have no choice but to be excited for Derrick Gordon's future. With a new coach on the way to put in place a system that can highlight his qualities, his potential is very high.

With the numbers he's producing already, it's hard to imagine what he'll be putting up when he's a senior. This could be the player the team has been missing since A.J. Slaughter or even Courtney Lee.

If he turns out that to be that good, or even slightly less, he could very well bring this program back to the top of the Sun Belt and feared by even the toughest of opponents.

One thing is for sure: the future is very bright for this young player.


All stats are from ESPN.com