With the 2008-09 school year coming to a close and many Cal Poly students looking to enter the working world, All-American Larry Gordon looks to continue his already successful basketball career overseas.
Teams from Belgium, Denmark and Germany have expressed interest in signing Gordon to play for them.
“I’m going to try to make a name for myself overseas because there are too many big names and well-known players going into the NBA draft,” he said. “My chances of being drafted honestly would be slim to none.”
The 6-foot-5-inch senior forward had a historic 2008-09 season, leading the Broncos with an average of 15.3 points and 10.4 rebounds a game. Gordon was also the only player in Cal Poly history to make at least 1,400 points, 900 rebounds, 500 field goals, 350 free throws, 125 steals and 45 block shots in his career.
He was awarded the California Collegiate Athletic Association’s Most Valuable Player Award and also named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-American team.
Despite taking his team all the way to the Division II National Championship game, Gordon and the Broncos failed to beat the undefeated University of Findlay. The Broncos suffered a heartbreaking 56-53 loss in overtime when a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Findlay’s Tyler Evans ended Cal Poly’s chances at a first-ever national championship.
With the Broncos’ end to an unexpectedly positive season, Gordon’s journey in basketball will continue as he looks to travel overseas after he graduates this spring.
But for the 22-year-old Pomona native, his childhood was a story that was nothing to smile about.
“Growing up was hard for me,” Gordon said. “We [our family] weren’t always a structured group — I was never in a stable home throughout childhood.”
Gordon was the youngest of two sisters and two brothers.
At the age of 5, Gordon lived with his sister Latrice and his mother Annie in Pomona. Gang activity and drugs were rampant in the area, making living conditions unsafe for the family.
The problems of the city caught up with Annie, and she became involved with gangs and drugs.
Her arrest led to Gordon’s uncle stepping in and taking custody of the children.
Gordon and Latrice spent four years in a foster home while Annie fought back to regain custody of her children while serving her time in jail.
After four years had passed, Annie was released from jail and regained custody of Gordon and Latrice. The three moved to a safer place in northern Pomona where their living conditions improved.
A year later, life began to settle when Gordon encountered something unexpected.
His dad, Larry Sr., and oldest brother Larry Jr. came to see him for the first time in his life.
“At first meeting, it was hard for me to adjust,” Gordon said. “But after spending a week with my dad, I went to live with him in Texas and our bond as father and son grew.”
Larry’s dad suggested Gordon take up sports. Gordon was fond of football for most of his youth. In the sixth grade he picked up a basketball and the evolution of Larry Gordon, basketball player, had begun.
“My dad was the one who suggested I play basketball even though I was playing football at the time,” Gordon said.
With relations in the family improving, life with Gordon was good for a couple of years.
But on the day before he turned 14, Gordon had another unexpected occurrence. His dad suddenly passed away in his sleep.
News of the tragedy hit hard throughout the family. Gordon used basketball as his solace from all the burdens that life was bearing down on him.
“Basketball was my time away from all the drama,” he said. “It hit me for a while because we [me and my father] were just getting to really know each other,” Gordon said.
Despite his love for football, Gordon’s skill in basketball increased, good enough to catch the eye of his former basketball coach Bill Blades. Gordon’s ability to play earned him a spot on the roster for the varsity basketball team in his sophomore year at Montclair High School. At this point, Gordon knew that basketball was his calling.
Gordon averaged 24.6 points and 13.2 rebounds while playing for Blades.
During that year, Gordon reunited with a childhood friend, Jason ‘Bama’ Cohen and spent the rest of high school living with him.
“We’re like Batman and Robin,” Cohen said. “We did everything together, chilled together, hooped together … we did it all together.”
Cohen was one of the many fans who watched Gordon excel during his junior and senior years as well as his games at Cal Poly.
“He’s always been better than everybody,” Cohen said. “It took time for him to grasp it, to know that he was better than everybody.”
After finishing his career playing basketball in high school, Gordon spent the off-season trying to see if he would be able to play at the Division I level.
During high school, Gordon was involved in playing with a basketball travel team and was accompanied with familiar names like UCLA’s Darren Collison and Arizona State’s Jeff Pendergraph. Both Gordon’s teammates succeeded in playing for the Division I schools while he was left behind, deciding to play Division II ball.
With offers from Cal State University, Los Angeles, as well as Cal State San Bernardino and Bakersfield, Gordon had many options to choose from, but he felt the call from Cal Poly Pomona was his best option.
“I didn’t want to rebuild,” he said. “I wanted to be in a team that was already good and bring what I have to make them even better.”
Broncos Head Coach Greg Kamansky provided what Gordon wanted and took note of his scoring ability, his efficiency and his hard work.
“The thing that Larry did more than anyone else is he outworked them,” Kamansky said. “Whether it was practice or on the court, he outworked people.”
Kamansky said Gordon is the perfect representative of Cal Poly basketball.
“He’s a class act, a hard worker. He never took anything for granted and is very unselfish; a person I would have to take care of my kids if I had to,” Kamansky said.
Gordon recalls of the guidance and care that Kamansky provided for him during his years at Cal Poly, calling him a second dad.
“He’s been there guiding me the whole way with academics, with family, with everything,” Gordon said.
Since Gordon’s years at Cal Poly, life with his family improved. Annie got her Bachelor’s degree in nursing from Cal State LA and recently remarried two years ago to her high school sweetheart, Kenneth King.
Gordon smiles and looks to make his way out of Cal Poly and into a new career overseas.
“I just always smile,” he said. “Life may be a struggle, but the good stuff I experience outweighs the bad.”