'Not close to 100%,' Kansas State guard DaJuan Gordon excels in return from foot injury

Ryan Black, The Manhattan Mercury, Kan.
·4 min read

Feb. 20—In his first game in more than two weeks, DaJuan Gordon gave everything he had for Kansas State on Wednesday night. Coming off the bench, Gordon played 28 minutes and scored a team-high 12 points in a 59-41 loss to No. 23 Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum.

And the performance came with Gordon at less-than-optimum health.

"I'm not close to 100%," he said, alluding to injuries (an ankle and a foot) that have afflicted both of his legs in the past two months.

Gordon's most recent injury occurred Jan. 30, when he went down less than five minutes into the team's game versus Texas A&M. He then missed K-State's next four contests (road affairs at KU and Oklahoma State and home tilts against Texas and Texas Tech) as he rehabbed.

As late as Wednesday morning, it wasn't a certainty Gordon would return. Gordon talked with K-State head coach Bruce Weber.

"I just said, 'DaJuan, we'll see how the game goes. You've got to be patient with yourself. You've practiced two days out of the last 17 and you had a traumatic injury," Weber said.

After speaking with Gordon, Weber phoned the team's trainer, Luke Sauber, to get his thoughts on Gordon's progress. Weber gave Gordon the news.

"He let me know if I'm OK to play, I can play," Gordon said. "I talked to the training staff and they said I was cleared to play."

Finally taking the floor Wednesday, Gordon said, was a joyful experience.

"It was just fun," he said. "Fun being around, being able to play. Play with my teammates and play for the coaches. It was fun — win or loss, it was fun just to be out there and play again."

He might have played too much, however. Weber admitted he "didn't realize" Gordon played 28 minutes. But in a game where the Wildcats struggled to score, Gordon was the lone bright spot — he was the only K-State player to post a double-digit point total.

Because of his playmaking ability, Weber left Gordon on the court.

"He did ask out in the second half and we probably overdid it a little bit with him," Weber said. "But he was playing well."

No Wildcat, not even Gordon, found any rhythm behind the 3-point line, though. K-State made just one of its first 22 shots beyond the arc before hitting two in a row to end the game.

Gordon, who missed all four 3s he attempted, admitted there's a delicate balance every possession — especially in a situation like Wednesday, where the Wildcats were trying to shoot their way back into the game.

On one hand, Gordon said, it becomes a mental barrier when shots continue to miss. But on the other, K-State had to take what was available from KU's defense.

"We all know we can shoot," he said. "Nijel Pack can shoot. Mike (McGuirl), Selton (Miguel) — everybody on the list going on down to the walk-ons. We all can shoot no matter what. If they (leave) us open, we've just got to keep shooting and keep our head high. The only way you make shots is with confidence and being in the gym. We're all in the gym. We've just got to stay confident."

Wednesday wasn't the Wildcats' day.

"It's just us not making shots. We got what we wanted," Gordon said. "Everybody got open shots and we just didn't make them. If we make those shots, then it's a ballgame. That's all."

As it was, Weber said he couldn't have asked for anything more from Gordon.

"He made the right reads. You've got to give him credit," Weber said. "I'm happy for him. He had some success. Obviously, I would have liked him to make a couple 3 and a couple of other guys to make some open 3s. But I'm happy DaJuan was able to come back and give us a nice spark off the bench."

He just isn't sure Gordon still will be available at 4 p.m. Saturday, when K-State takes on TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.

"I hope I didn't overdo it," Weber said, "if we don't have him on Saturday."