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Gordon: Players' drug use wrecked IU season

NBA rookie: Sampson 'tried to stop it' but was focused on wins

Posted: December 18, 2008
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Eric Gordon plays his first NBA game in his home state Friday, but the rookie still sometimes thinks about the turmoil that wrecked his one season at Indiana University.

Coach Kelvin Sampson was embroiled in a recruiting scandal that led to his ouster, but Gordon said there was another key reason for the rift in the team.

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"It was the guys that were doing drugs that were separate," Gordon told The Indianapolis Star in an exclusive telephone interview this week, speaking publicly for the first time about the issues that played a part in a once top-10 team failing to win a single postseason game.

The Hoosiers started 17-1 but lost their first game of the Big Ten Tournament and first game of the NCAA Tournament.

Gordon didn't say which players used drugs, but he said D.J. White and two others still on the team were among those who did not. Attempts to reach White and several other former players were not successful.

Gordon said Sampson "tried to stop it," but the coach "was just so focused on basketball and winning and everything."

Gordon said he spent considerable time with a family friend in Bloomington because the atmosphere around some players was so bad he didn't feel comfortable on campus.

"Sometimes it felt like it wasn't even a real basketball team because of all the turmoil that went on," said Gordon, now a starting guard for the Los Angeles Clippers. "I was just thinking about that the other day. It was so crazy that all that stuff threw off a good season and made it a waste, basically.

"It was really tough for us to be around each other all the time off the court because we were so separate."

Former IU guard Adam Ahlfeld said players were aware some teammates had issues with drugs.

"I wasn't really with those abusing drugs, so I can't say what was really going on," said Ahlfeld, who graduates with honors Saturday after finishing his student teaching. "I wasn't involved in any of those things."

Dan Dakich, who became interim coach Feb. 22 when Sampson was forced out, declined to comment Wednesday afternoon when asked if drug use was an issue.

"I'm not going into any of it," he said. "I've been asked a billion times from a billion different places, and I'm not going into any of it."

IU coach Tom Crean said privacy laws don't allow him to discuss the issue.

"We're doing our best to move ahead from a very difficult time for Indiana basketball and focus on doing that in the best light we can," Crean said Wednesday night.

School spokesman J.D. Campbell said neither outgoing athletic director Rick Greenspan nor his replacement, Fred Glass, would comment.

"It would be inappropriate for anyone to comment based on student privacy laws," Campbell said Wednesday night.

According to the IU Athletics Code of Conduct, university officials can drug-test at any time.

After a positive drug test, the student-athlete must take part in a drug-counseling program. The athlete is then subject to additional random testing.

A second positive test will result in the athlete missing 10 percent of his or her athletic season (three games in basketball).

A third positive test will cost the athlete his or her athletic scholarship at the end of the semester.

North Central High School basketball coach Doug Mitchell had three former players -- Gordon, Ahlfeld and A.J. Ratliff -- in the IU program for all or most of last season. After last season, he described the situation as "a mess."

"I'm extremely disappointed in what appears to have been the lack of monitoring and supervision of the players' behaviors," Mitchell said.

Call Star reporter Jeff Rabjohns at (317) 444-6183.

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The Clippers' Eric Gordon comes home Friday for a game vs. the Pacers. - ALEX GALLARDO / Los Angeles Times

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