At least it's over.
Even Illinois fans can appreciate that, right? That it's over. Done. And that they won't have to worry one more second about whether the most dominant guard on the AAU circuit this summer and the favorite to be the 2007-08 Big Ten Freshman of the Year is coming to their school.
|Eric Gordon can be a program- changing player. (AP)|
That's been pretty clear to most observers for months, even if the Illini faithful chose to ignore all signs, letting their blind enthusiasm trump reason and rationale. But Friday, Eric Gordon Sr. -- father of Indianapolis (North Central) guard Eric Gordon Jr., aka E.J., aka program-changing recruit -- removed any lingering doubt for anybody by announcing his son has decommitted from Illinois and committed to Kelvin Sampson and Indiana.
"E.J. loves the Illinois fans and Bruce Weber and all the coaches, and he was deeply regretful that he had to bring this news to Coach Weber," Gordon Sr. told CBS SportsLine.com on Friday. "But this is what he wanted to do. It's been very hard on him, but I think he's made the best decision for himself."
Meanwhile, one state is celebrating, and another is on suicide watch. Because as good as this is for Indiana, it's equally bad for Illinois, and there will be no crazier scene in college basketball next season than when Gordon, as a freshman, enters Assembly Hall as a visitor to what will be a rash of boos only Terrell Owens can truly appreciate.
Should be fun times.
So on second thought, it's not really over at all.
In the meantime, people will voice their opinions, explain where and how each party went wrong during the four-month period that turned this recruiting story into a recruiting saga. At this point, none of it really matters. But for those quick to criticize Sampson, understand the guy didn't do a thing that he shouldn't have done along the way in landing what is Indiana's biggest recruit in years, the No. 1 prospect in the nation according to one scouting service.
I've talked to dozens of college coaches about this subject at length, guys with no ties to either school. Without exception, each coach has told me that if he took a job and an in-state kid who had already committed to an out-of-state school indicated his mind could be changed and asked to be recruited under those new circumstances, that he'd move forward exactly as Sampson did.
"If the kid says he likes your school and wants you to recruit him, how do you not recruit him, especially if you weren't there when he committed to the other school in the first place?" said one prominent coach. "Kelvin has done what any of us would do. Now if the kid or the father had ever come out and said, 'This is over. We're committed to Illinois and we don't want anybody else to recruit us any more,' then that's another issue, and it should be over then. But that's not what happened here. So Kelvin did what he should've done."
Still, that makes things no easier for Weber, who is the sympathetic figure in this story. Again, he has lost a high-profile recruit, and the same coaches who applaud Sampson for this coup seem to feel bad for Weber, who is by all accounts a likeable guy, someone who "does things the right the way."
Even Eric Gordon Sr. said this, and it's clear that reneging on the commitment to Illinois was a painful experience, evidence being how the family -- and this was probably the one mistake -- continued to publicly express E.J. was 100 percent going to play for the Illini up until Friday, really, despite their actions over the past few months suggesting otherwise.
But again, at this point, none of that really matters. What matters is that Illinois is in recovery mode, and Indiana has its in-state star. And Eric Gordon Jr. is finally at peace with his college choice, even if Friday night -- at Hoosier Hysteria -- figures to be anything but peaceful.
"I hope it's not going to be too crazy," said E.J.'s father. "But I think it's probably going to be."