In sports, there is always talk about a team’s need for veteran leadership in the locker room.
From the outside looking in, this was something that Seton Hall appeared to lack – at least in any effective manner – during a 2014-15 season that saw the Pirates lose nine of their last 10 games.
This year, however, the Hall has Derrick Gordon. A transfer from UMass, the guard has made a noticeable impact in the leadership department with both his all-out style of play and team-oriented mindset behind the scenes.
“This year – me being a senior – I have to be, especially dealing with a lot of sophomores,” Gordon said when asked if he was looking to be a leader. “It’s still new to them and I still have a lot to learn, but what I can bring to the table and the knowledge that I can bring to them will help a lot. And vice versa for what they can bring to me.”
The sophomores – Isaiah Whitehead, Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo – all saw what happened last year to an inexperienced Pirates roster. Now, with the Hall coming off back-to-back losses against Villanova and Creighton, it is Gordon who is looking to avoid another free fall.
“We gotta learn to bounce back from losses,” he said after the Bluejays smoked the Pirates, 82- 67, on Jan. 9. “This is two in a row and me being a veteran, I gotta make sure that we stay together and that nobody puts their heads down. I wasn’t here last year, but I’ve heard what happened. I gotta make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Gordon, who scored 14 points in the Creighton game, said he called a players-only meeting after what was an overall lackluster effort from SHU.
“I just want to make sure everyone is on the same page,” he told the press prior to the meeting, adding that it did not mean anything bad. “This is my last year, so I want everybody to make sure that we’re on the same page and that we don’t start pointing fingers or nothing like that.”
Gordon has already acted as a mentor to some of the younger Pirates one-on-one. When Rodriguez was benched against DePaul on Jan. 2 after directing an outburst toward coaches, Gordon said he pulled him aside. Gordon also said he has spoken with Delgado this year regarding the big man’s frustrations over the constant double-teaming he sees from opponents.
“Just making sure everyone’s head is in the right place,” Gordon said.
On the court, Gordon has earned the reputation of a hustler, providing the Hall with energy each time he enters a game. A lockdown defender and aggressive slasher, Gordon is averaging 8.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals over 25.2 minutes a game as the Pirates’ first guy off the bench.
In the midst of a losing streak and with three straight games against Top 25 opponents coming up in Providence, Villanova and Xavier, the team will need Gordon and everyone else to be at their best.
With grueling games ahead, the veteran wants to make sure of one thing.
“We gotta make sure that we stay together,” he said.
Gary Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GaryHPhillips.