Derrick Gordon transferring from UMass, hopes to expand his role at new school



Last modified: Thursday, April 16, 2015

Derrick Gordon has never kept his NBA aspirations a secret.

Before he even played a game at UMass, he talked about getting drafted someday. So while the junior guard said he appreciated how the Minuteman coaches and players supported him when he became the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player last year, he’s leaving Amherst in hopes of finding a school that will increase his role and improve his chances of being drafted.

“I don’t want people to jump to conclusions and think something happened in the locker room. I love those guys and I know they love me, the players and the coaches,” he said. “Nothing was going wrong. They shower with me. Everything I could expect to go right, it went right in that situation. That wasn’t a problem at all. This is a personal situation for me. I want to pursue my dreams, which is to ultimately get drafted. This is what’s best for me and my future.”

The 6-foot-2 guard is taking advantage of the NCAA’s fifth-year transfer rule, which allows players who complete their bachelor’s degree and have eligibility remaining to transfer without sitting out. Gordon is on track to graduate at the end of the semester. The Plainfield, New Jersey, native averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game this past season.

Gordon’s role was unlikely to expand next season. UMass doesn’t graduate any perimeter players and its top recruit is Chicago guard Luwane Pipkins. Gordon saw himself doing more than coach Derek Kellogg was willing to let him.

“Throughout the whole year I wasn’t really happy. I felt that I could be contributing a lot more and doing a lot more for the team and unfortunately it didn’t work out,” Gordon said. “It was just one of those situations where I wasn’t happy. It was better to go ahead and leave. It’s a good thing I have one year of eligibility where I can go anywhere I want to and play right away.”

Gordon felt that without a chance to do more, his opportunities to be selected by an NBA team next summer would be limited. Neither Draftexpress.com nor NBADraft.net listed him as a likely draft choice. At 6-2, he’s very undersized to play any position but point guard, which he has never played at the college level. He made just one of 16 3-point attempts at UMass.

“I’m transferring so I can put myself in the best position to get drafted,” he said.

Kellogg wished Gordon well.

“We had talked a little before spring break and I had an idea that he might want a different situation,” Kellogg said. “I wish him the best of luck. He’s done some great things here. If he’s going to be happy, I’m happy for him.”

Gordon began his career at Western Kentucky, where he led the Hilltoppers with 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He transferred to UMass after one season after WKU fired its coaching staff. He hoped his role at his next school would closer resemble the one he played as a freshman.

“I just want to be the D.G. that I know I am. People that have seen my games at Western Kentucky know I did a little bit of everything. I made 3s. I took jump shots. I got teammates involved. I was a leader, a guy that when it was time to take over games, coaches called on me,” he said. “When I got here it changed a little bit. I lost my confidence a bit and it set me back. Whatever school I end up at the coach can expect that I’m a workhorse. I’m in the gym. I can knock down the open shot, defend and rebound I can do it all. That’s what I plan on doing at whatever school I end up at, being the best player I can be. I want to win as many games as possible and get back to the tournament. I’m a winner at the end of the day. I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

Gordon said he wasn’t targeting any specific programs, but hoped for a higher profile school.

“I don’t want to go lower. I want to either go bigger or stay at the same level. Whether it’s ACC, Pac 12, Big Ten or whatever,” he said. “I have no idea. I’m not rushing anything. I’m going to take my time. I do want to play for a team that’s a high profile school. I’m excited and a little nervous. I’m sure whatever school I end up at is going to be the best decision for me. I want to be able to put myself into the best position for the 2016 draft.”

Gordon hoped that support he received at UMass and the lack of negative attention his sexuality drew on the road would keep any potential schools from being concerned about him being a distraction.

“I’m there for business. I have one more year. I’m going to go there and do whatever it takes for my teammates to win,” he said. “The longer the season went on there were less people asking about my sexuality and things like that. It was all positive support. Even at the worst places it was all positive support.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage


 

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