Colorado team follows North star in Gordy

Colorado team follows North star in Gordy

Friday, January 9

Colorado team follows North star in Gordy

Carmelo Anthony isn’t the only Denver basketball player shouldering the burden of rebuilding an underachieving program this season.

What the Nuggets have been to the NBA for the past 14 years, the North Vikings have been to the Denver Prep League for much of the past 40 years.

But prolific Mike Gordy hopes to change all that.

The 6-foot-6 senior, who led the state in scoring last season, is the centerpiece of a tight-knit, senior-laden team bristling with confidence despite the fact the Class 5A Vikings haven’t sniffed the state quarterfinals since 1972 or the semifinals since 1957.

In years past, the Vikings have been playing for just North, as in the reaction from opposing players who say something like, “Aw, it’s just North.”

Lately, “just North” has been a bit of a juggernaut, and Gordy is more than just your average player. He has a 3.8 grade point average, likes science and has committed to the University of Northern Colorado so his family will be able to watch him play college basketball.

After their 75-66 nonleague victory Wednesday night over Conifer, the Vikings are off to a 7-1 start and averaging a gaudy 86.4 points per game. Even more impressive are the numbers being put up by Gordy, who is averaging 36.6 points, 18 rebounds and more than two blocked shots per game.

But unlike Rodney Dangerfield, the unranked Vikings know why they get no respect.

“We haven’t played anybody (of consequence),” said Gordy, who scored a season-high 52 points against Sheridan and 50 against Kent Denver, both Class 3A teams.

The Vikings have played just one Class 5A team so far, 1-5 West.

First-year coach Gabe Trujillo isn’t responsible for North’s marshmallow nonleague schedule, but the former assistant coach and player at Abraham Lincoln sees his Vikings ship – with Gordy at the helm – crashing the DPL status quo.

“There hasn’t been a player at North like Mike, possibly ever,” said Trujillo, who played professionally in Mexico after stints at Metro State and Western State. “He is just like a man amongst boys out there. He’s really physically strong, and if he gets the ball he can really score at will.

“You know good things are going to happen when he’s out there.”

Gordy’s tremendous footwork and strength give him the kind of versatility unmatched by most of his peers. He can bang down on the blocks just as easily as he can spot up for the open 3-pointer.

He’s a nightmare for defensive players, but a dream come true for teammates such as Zeke Deleon, Ozwaldo Camara, Angelo Trujillo and Aaron Morales.

“He was playing good last year, but the way he’s playing now with his rebounding, scoring and passing, when you do everything like that it gets everybody involved,” said Morales, a senior guard averaging 22.3 points.

North hope to dispel another common misconception this season: Even if opponents stop Gordy, the Vikings can win easily. It’s a trap the Vikings love to set.

“I know all of our other players can play,” Gordy said. “If (opposing teams) sleep on them, then I just back up a little and let our other guys do it and then that just gets teams confused.”

And frustrated.

“The funnest part is watching teams get mad and seeing that they can’t stop all of us,” Morales said.

Stopping the Vikings this season will take a concentrated effort, but stopping Gordy is something not just the Class 3A squads have struggled with.

Gordy set two national records during the summer while playing for the Red Shield Colorado HAWKS White team at the prestigious Adidas Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas. He set the mark for most field goals and points in a game when he sank 23 baskets and scored 57 points in a 127-66 rout of Connecticut’s Yearwood Ballers.

The previous high was 51 points, set in 1995 by scoring phenom Glendon Alexander (who played for Oklahoma State and Arkansas) and equaled in 1997 by Lance Williams (DePaul), according to Larry McKay, tournament director.

The HAWKS (Hard-At-Work-Kids), who include local standouts such as East’s Charlie Mays, George Washington’s Cory Scott, South’s Calais Campbell and Rangeview’s Curtis Cotton, were just one win shy of advancing to the Big Time Tournament final.

Gordy scored 206 points in eight games, good enough to tie him for seventh in tournament history. The record is held by the Nuggets’ Anthony, who scored 227 points in nine games in 2001.

“Those kids usually get recruited by big schools and I know I can compete with them,” Gordy said.

Gordy’s work ethic on and off the court comes from his father and current assistant coach Mike Gordy Sr., who saw his playing days at John F. Kennedy High School take a detour when he became the young father of his junior namesake.

“I just try to keep him out of trouble and remind him every day to stay focused and stay on track and don’t do nothing you’re going to regret later,” Mike Sr. said.

Conversations at the Gordy household aren’t filled with NBA pipedreams. The No. 1 goal of the North star is getting a college degree that Mike Sr. believes will open the kind of doors for his son that have remained closed for him.

“I pretty much fell through the cracks, which makes it good for him because I’ve been there. I know what it feels like,” Mike Sr. said.

Gordy has stayed on track despite attending three schools. Gordy left East after his freshman season when he didn’t see eye-to-eye with longtime coach Rudy Carey.

Said Carey: “He’s a great kid. He would have fit into the plans eventually.”

Gordy got varsity playing time as a sophomore on a much-hyped Manual squad, but left his junior year for North, at the time the basketball equivalent of Siberia. His decision to move and stay at North made sense because it’s close to home and his friends.

“Once I came here all my friends came here and I just wanted to relax and just have fun,” Gordy said. “Everyone thinks it’s bad, but it’s not as bad as anyone thinks.”

And so goes the North program in a nutshell.

The Vikings believe they can be big spoilers this season. Their biggest games could be Jan. 20 and 23 with a doubleheader against rival Lincoln. But city respect won’t come unless the Vikings can knock off George Washington (Jan. 30), Montbello (Feb. 10) and East (Feb. 17).

Do that, and the Vikings might be able to finally say they have arrived.

“Hopefully we can get to the next level if they work hard,” Gabe Trujillo said. “We talk about honesty and loyalty; we’re really like a family. The kids have bought in because we are so close.”

 

Jan 09, 2004 – By Brian Forbes

Special to The Denver Post