The Pirate women’s basketball team takes great pride in its defense and will tell you that the key to the team’s success is solid play on the defensive side of the basketball. Their most important player on defense this season has been 6-foot-4 junior center Lubirdia Gordon, whose overall development has been key to the program’s success.
At New York’s Mount Vernon High School, Gordon improved her game each season and dominated games by the time she was a senior. Gordon averaged 20.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.6 steals per game.
“It was great. My senior year I had more of a leadership role since we lost all of our seniors. By my senior year I had to step up and get the job done,” Gordon said. “We didn’t do that great my senior year, but we were okay.”
After leading Mount Vernon High School to four straight sectional finals appearances and back-to-back sectional titles, Gordon decided to attend West Virginia. In Morgantown, Gordon played in 14 games, but averaged just 2.9 minutes and 2.0 points per game. Despite her minimal playing time, Gordon led the team with a 68.8 field goal percentage and was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team.
However, that would be her last season with West Virginia. Gordon had to attend to her family back home.
“My mother had gotten sick while I was at West Virginia and it was pretty far away,” Gordon said. “I knew I couldn’t be there for my mother and stay at West Virginia so I decided to come closer.”
Coach Tony Bozzella’s family-type atmosphere was a big reason why Gordon chose to make the move to Seton Hall. After she was granted her release by West Virginia, Gordon was cleared to suit up for The Hall during the 2014-15 season. That year, Gordon learned behind players like Chizoba Ekedigwe and got some playing time too. Gordon averaged just 1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds over 7.8 minutes a game.
“When we were contacted and asked would we be interested, I was excited because we were trying to rebuild the program and I knew first and foremost that she was a quality person,” Bozzella said. “We knew she had a lot of talent and we thought that we could really develop it.”
Over this past summer, Gordon would go to work with the coaching staff to improve her body and try to further develop that talent. Seton Hall’s strength and conditioning coach, Ryan Carr, and assistant coach, Tiffany Jones-Smart, got Gordon in better shape.
“I’ve made a lot of strides and in the summer time is where I made a lot of them. I didn’t go home this summer. In the summer time, we worked hard outside running, conditioning and lifting,” Gordon said. “Anytime I wanted to get into the gym, put up free throws, do some post moves or anything I would just call one of them up and we got it done.”
Gordon proved how hard she was willing to work and made great progress during the offseason that included her losing 20 plus pounds.
“We set specific goals in terms of where we want her strength to be. To her credit, she has started to attack those goals,” Carr said. “I am a very demanding person. My job is to put stress on their bodies and that can be difficult to do for anybody. At first, it might have been a shock for her, but she has definitely improved her work ethic and I see it getting better all the time.”
With no Ekedigwe and a younger frontcourt at Seton Hall’s disposal, Gordon was called upon to step up. She has done just that this season and then some. Gordon has blocked 44 shots this season, which is already top-10 in Seton Hall history for one season and top-10 nationally.
“She is the backline of our defense and helps us to see things that are going on in the back,” senior guard Tabatha Richardson-Smith said. “When guards get beat, we look for Bird to bail us out and for the most part she has. Bird has been great.”
Despite all of this success, Gordon and the Pirate coaching staff believes she has not even come close to reaching her potential.
“She is just scratching the ceiling,” Bozzella said.
For Gordon, it is all about continuing to put in the hard work that got her where she is in the first place.
“I see myself getting very far. I feel that I can definitely improve,” Gordon said. “If I have another successful summer, which I plan to, next year is nothing but greatness for me and the team.”
Sean Saint Jacques can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. edu or on Twitter @SSaintJ7.