SAN FRANCISCO — Wesley Gordon often is a walking psychological case study.
Catch him cruising around the Colorado campus or in a light moment among his basketball teammates, and Gordon typically is witty and gregarious, quick to share a beaming smile and a comical comment that rarely fails to draw laughter from all those within earshot.
On the court Gordon is a focused, often scowling presence in the paint, a player perfectly content to do the dirty work on defense and the glass while others take care of the scoring.
Yet off the court, by himself and particularly with a microphone in front of his face, getting Gordon to use his wit to expound on his basketball skills is like the proverbial pulling of teeth. While Gordon is attempting to put on a more outgoing public face, as evidenced by his appearance as the CU team leader at the Pac-12 Conference media day Friday, he remains far less concerned with giving a good interview than getting the Buffs back to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in six seasons.
“I’m usually more focused on myself this time of year, but now I’m representing my team. It’s different from what I’m used to” Gordon said. “With the cameras on I don’t know who’s seeing me. I act different around people I know than people I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to mesh them together. Compared to my freshman year, I’m a lot better with it.”
It’s an issue Gordon continually gets pushed on by head coach Tad Boyle. During the past week, with the fifth-year senior forward sidelined by a minor ankle issue, Boyle expressed disappointment at Gordon’s mute stance at the side of the court while the rest of the team scrimmaged.
Sure, the Buffs have a more vocal leader in Xavier Johnson, another fifth-year senior. But Boyle knows the words of a young man who speaks softly carries a great weight in the CU locker room. Boyle is quick to note that Gordon typically the player kids gravitate toward the most during the team’s summer youth camps. Getting him to open up similarly in a more public manner is an ongoing project.
“It doesn’t come naturally for Wes, being in front of the camera and the spotlight,” Boyle said. “You don’t stop coaching guys just because they’re seniors or just because they’re leaders. I probably coached Josh Scott harder last year maybe than any year he’d been at Colorado, because I needed to talk to him about his leadership and what it looked like and what it meant.”
Naturally, Gordon prefers to let his play do the talking. And in that regard he should have plenty to say in 2016-17.
Blending a unique set of skills with a selfless mindset in which his scoring totals are an afterthought, Gordon can have a major impact for the Buffs even without a marked improvement on the career-best 7.2 points a game he averaged last year. In addition to his career-best 7.6 rebounding average last season, Gordon also recorded a personal-best 68 blocked shots. If he improves that total by just one, Gordon will match David Harrison’s CU career record of 225 blocked shots.
“We’ll just see how it goes,” Gordon said. “I don’t really worry about scoring. And because we have so many scorers on our team, my defense is going to separate me from everybody else. I really just try to focus on my job, but I’ve been working on my scoring inside as well.”
Pat Rooney: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/prooney07