Marion High School Lady Warrior senior Whitney Gordon has announced her intention to play basketball for the University of Wyoming after she graduates, and a decision by her sixth-grade coach may have been instrumental in making it possible.
In 2005, Jerry Smith was coaching a sixth-grade girls recreational league team, and he had a problem. He didn’t have a point guard.
What he did have was a young girl taller than the rest who would typically have been a center, but Smith saw she could dribble as well as rebound and shoot.
“She was the only one I had who could handle the ball,” Smith said, “so I made her a point guard. She brought the ball down, passed it, and then went under the basket.”
“She liked it, and it worked for us,” he said.
Gordon’s father, Marion High School principal Tod Gordon, a former collegiate player for Northwest Missouri State University, indicated Smith’s decision set his daughter on the path to developing the perimeter style of play favored by Wyoming’s offense.
Whitney agreed with her father’s assessment.
“True motion offense is what they do,” Whitney explained. “One year their leading 3-point player was a 5, so it could be anybody.”
“I’ll be shooting the 3 a lot,” Whitney smiled.
Marion High School Lady Warrior basketball coach Randy Savage was pleased to learn about Whitney’s commitment to Wyoming.
“Two years ago, with the girls in the senior class playing ahead of her, she got to play on the perimeter a lot. She’s happier facing the basket,” Savage said.
Savage doesn’t see Whitney’s future collegiate offensive prospects altering her role with the Lady Warriors this season.
“There are some things we’ll need her to do she won’t do as much of in college, but we’re not afraid to let her play the perimeter, too.”
Whitney recalled her first organized basketball experiences in elementary school.
“I remember doing everything,” she said. “I started playing tournaments in the fourth grade.”
It was at the Miss Basketball Showcase in Kearney, Nebr. in July when Whitney, playing for the Wichita-based MoKan Eclipse White 16 team, first came to the notice of Wyoming coaches.
“We played in Nashville, Dallas, Denver, and in Kearney,” Eclipse head coach Jeff Henry said. “Those are viewing periods, so Division I and II coaches can watch, but they can’t talk to the players.”
Getting noticed at tournaments such as Miss Basketball Showcase isn’t always easy, Henry noted.
“At one of those tournaments there are probably 100 club teams there. At Nashville, there were clubs from California to New York,” Henry explained. “In Denver, the top two players in the country were there.”
Henry first coached Whitney as a freshman playing for the Wichita Bearcats.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth in her game,” he said. “I think she’ll be a great asset at Wyoming.”
After seeing her play in Kearney, Nashville, and Denver, Wyoming coaches invited Whitney and her parents for an on-campus visit in Laramie over Labor Day weekend.
“We went to a ranch the first night, saw the facilities, and went to the football game Saturday night,” Whitney said.
Whitney’s decision to commit to Wyoming was influenced by the status the Wyoming women’s basketball team, nicknamed the Cowgirls, enjoys in Laramie.
“The girls are really good, and they say the boys use their pictures because the gym is packed more for the girls than the boys,” she said.
Tod is pleased Whitney chose to play basketball at a Division I university, but admitted he wasn’t sure which direction his multi-talented daughter would go.
“I honestly thought she’d choose volleyball,” he said.
Verbal commitments are non-binding statements of intent, and while recruiting rules allow an athlete to change their decision during this time, both Tod and Whitney see Wyoming continuing to be her destination.
National letter-of-intent signing day will be in November.