Drew Gordon (206-C-1990, college: N.Mexico) is a 32 year old 206cm center from San Jose, California that is playing his 11th pro season and first with Fukuoka Rizing (Japan-B2 League,. He has had experience in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers. Most of his career has been spent playing overseas where he has played in countries like Serbia, Italy, Turkey, France, Lithuania, Russia, Poland and the Ukraine. He won 2 professional titles in Italy and Poland and before turning pro played at UCLA and the University of New Mexico. He spoke to germanhoops.com earlier in 2022 about his basketball career
Thanks Drew for talking to germanhoops.com Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
Hey what up everyone! I am currently in Denver watching my brother play in the NBA playoffs against the Warriors. Basketball life for me is going well. Obviously the situation in the Ukraine was unfortunate and a very sad situation. We have not been able to get documentation for our new born son, who was born out in the Ukraine right before the war escalated. Therefore we have been waiting to go somewhere else to play until his documentation is received here in the states.
Your at home in the States after playing in the Ukraine this season. What kind of feelings do you get when you see the sad footage on the news about the war. When did it sink in that you were there?
Its sad man, I wish that everyone would come to a peaceful conclusion to it all. The Ukraine is a very beautiful place so to see it being damaged is sad. However, while being out there, we didn’t feel a threat of war at all really. It wasn’t until the very end of our stay in Kyiv did we feel any sort of distress. It was always on the back of our minds obviously, but it was business as usual right up until the very end.
Most guys got out of the Ukraine while some guys had to escape. What memories will you always have of the time that you had in the Ukraine?
Mainly my teammates, we had a great group of guys this year that really wanted to win. We were living in Kyiv which was a great place to be able to walk around and see the rich history of the Ukraine. Something that will also be an ever-lasting memory is trying to help teammates and friends escape once they got stuck. Very odd feeling knowing that you can only help so much. You worry about their safety and their families safety and wellbeing.
You played with Budivelnyk Kyiv (Ukraine-Superleague) playing 29 games averaging 13.9ppg, Reb-1 (10.6rpg), 1.9apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 60.9%, 3PT: 20.0%, FT: 59.0%. Would it be fair to say that you were playing your best personal season since 2015-2016 when you balled in France. How tough was just stopping the season?
It was tough man, I wasn’t really planning on leaving until the embassy shut down. I liked the basketball we were playing and I happened to fit well into coaches system. I was playing well yes, but a lot of that comes from the team. How we interacted with each other and the chemistry that we had made it easy for lots of guys to play really well. It was unselfish basketball which is always a fun way to play. It sucks that the season had to stop.
How is your approach now to overseas ball? Will this experience in the Ukraine really influence how you chose your next job?
I don’t think it will influence it much. This was a terrible and unfortunate thing that happened in the Ukraine but its’ not like it happens all over the world every year. I just want to make sure me and my family are safe and the living is good. Its tough to go a full year with wife and kids in a place where living is tough. I want to make sure they enjoy where they are at. Its much better for everyone’s mental.
You have played 10 professional seasons and in 8 countries. I’m still waiting for you to play in Germany. Have you ever had any offers and what memories do you have playing against Bamberg, Berlin and Ulm?
Yeah I played against Alba a few times. Walking the Berlin wall was super dope. I actually have a picture of me standing in the same spot I believe 9 years apart. Maybe 8 years but still a super cool place. I would love to play in Germany! My guy Brandon Ashley said he loved playing there so I would love to try to go play there for a year or two
Last season you split time in Russia with Avtodor Saratov (Russia-VTB) averaging: 8.7ppg, 6.7rpg, 2FGP: 55.1%, 3FGP: 33.3%, FT: 71.4%, in Jan.’21 moved to Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia-VTB) averaging 13.3ppg, Reb-2 (7.7rpg), 2.0apg, FGP-3 (68.5%), 3PT-3 (50.0%), FT: 50.0%; and in the Eurocup averaged 9.0ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 66.7%, FT: 62.5%. This was the first time in your career since 2013-2014 where you split time with two organizations. What is always the toughest during a season for a player when you have to change scenery?
Yeah it was tough. Avtodor was a tough place to play. And an even colder place to live. We had some good players on the team. I still keep up with Nate and Markel. But I think the toughest part when coming on to a new team is being able to fit into the system. Taking that gamble on going to a new team and hoping the coach and players accept you. And you are able to produce right when you get to the new team.
In 2019-2020 you played with Stelmet Enea BC Zielona Gora (Poland-EBL) averaging 10.7ppg, 6.7rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 60.1%, FT: 66.7%: and in the VTB United League averaged 13.3ppg, Reb-4 (8.3rpg), 2.1apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 56.3%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 75.3%. It was only your second pro title. What kind of a feeling did it give you being a Corona champion?
It was frustrating. I’ll take the title but we didn’t get a chance to play that final game and lift the trophy like we were planning on doing. We didn’t get a chance to enjoy the championship because we were too busy trying to get our butts home before the airports closed and we were stuck in Poland. Playing for Zan was great, we still stay in contact. He was a coach that really knew how to interact with the team.
In 2018-2019 you returned to the States and played with the Long Island Nets (NBA G League) playing 35 games averaging 7.3ppg, 6.8rpg, FGP: 55.9%, 3PT: 15.6%, FT: 62.0%. What kind of an experience was that and after being three years away from the NBA do clubs lose track with all the many players coming and going?
It was a rough time for sure. I wanted to stay in Europe, but for our family the best move was to come back into the states because we were expecting our son Zayne, so we wanted to be back around family for that. I was playing behind Alan Williams and he was playing really well so I was taking the time to work on my body and prep for the baby coming. I think you touched on it earlier with this, but unless the team really has their eyes on you it is tough to get a fair shake in the league.
I guess when you average only 15 minutes in the G-League, it will be tough to get a NBA call up. Do you feel like 30 minutes would have done the trick?
Yeah man, 15 minutes spread out over the length of the game is tough to really get rocking and get into a groove of playing. Specially when the team is tailored to only be looking at a few guys. I feel like if I was able to rock out then I would have had a much better chance for sure. However, it wasn’t in the cards.
Does one notice that sometimes you can be really efficient in the minutes but when an organization is eyeing only certain guys and focusing on young guys, that it will be a reach to get that shot?
For sure it is! I feel for a lot of the G-league guys. You can have a crazy P.I.R and still not get a look. There are certain things that teams are looking at so it makes it tough. With covid being a thing guys had/have more chances at getting call ups with dudes catching covid. But I feel like unless you are a two-way player its super tough to get that look
In 2017-2018 you played your first time in Russia with Zenit Sankt Petersburg (Russia-VTB) averaging 11.1ppg, Reb-5 (6.7rpg), FGP: 62.6%, FT: 57.1%; and in the Eurocup averaging 12.4ppg, Reb-5 (7.0rpg), 1.1apg, FGP: 58.7%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 54.4%. This was your first time in Russia.talk a little about this experience living in a beautiful city and competing in the VTB League a place you always were successful in.
We loved it in saint Petersburg ! That was one of the prettiest cities we had played in. I was hoping to be able to stay on with Zenit at the end of the year because again we had a solid group of guys. I think if we stuck together we would have been able to do some crazy stuff the following year. It took us a second to get adjusted, especially in the cold weather and the short days, but we ended up loving it. The VTB league is always fun to play in, I feel like its one of the strongest leagues and you end up playing against a lot of guys that bounced out of the NBA so its always competitive and a good time seeing a lot of guys you use to play against in the states.
You played a number of time against Mr Euroleague Kyle Hines. If you look back at your numerous head to head battles, who would you say came out the winner most times?
I would say it went back and forth. I usually had pretty solid games against CSKA. But its been years since I have been able to play against him again. Hopefully I can tell you for sure that I got the better of him the next time we meet.
In 2016-2017 you played in the land of basketball with Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (Lithuania-LKL) averaging 10.6ppg, Reb-3 (7.1rpg), 1.5apg, FGP: 59.7%, 3PT: 19.1%, FT: 64.0%; and in the Eurocup averaged 12.6ppg, Reb-1 (9.6rpg), 1.4apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 15.8%, FT: 58.7%. What kind of an experience was it playing for such a historical organization and what one experience will you always remember that clearly shows this country is fanatic for basketball?
The fans were awesome! I loved the energy that the fans brought. Vilnius is such a cool place to play also. The downtown was awesome to be able to walk around in, good eats as well. I will say Lithuania ball was much more physical than I originally thought. And playing every team so many times was kind of rough. I think we ended up playing a team something like ten times because of regular season, the cup, and playoffs. For me I don’t want to play a team 10 times over in a single season. But being able to play in the arena with the fans going crazy was always fun. Shout out the the Rytas fans.
In 2015-2016 you played with Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket (France-ProA) playing 30 games averaging 14.0ppg, Reb-2 (9.6rpg), 1.5apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 62.5%, 3PT: 20.8%, FT: 72.7%. After coming from your NBA season, how vital was this season for your early career? You had a very good season which helped you get back on the map overseas.
I mean yeah its always a good thing to hit the group running. Oddly enough coming from the NBA there weren’t a lot of teams who were super interested. Its like I made the jump to the NBA then Europe forgot about me when I tried to get back. So playing well was a must. Well, playing as I usually play.
You were teammates with so so many guys in your career. But the question how good can you remember guys? I covered Miro Todic when he was a young player in Frankfurt in 2005. You saw him 10 years later. As a big man what do you remember about his play?
Man! That was my guy! Its unfortunate what the team tried to do by forcing him to leave. I thought he was a really solid player that would have helped us down the stretch. But unfortunately the team had other ideas. Why it didn’t work out and the team ended up doing that I wont ever really know but he has a great resume and is a solid dude.
In 2014-2015 you reached the NBA with the 76ers playing 9 games and also played in the G-League with Delaware. It has been 7 years now, but what instantly comes back to you when you look back at your NBA experience?
Being able to play against my brother in the preseason. It had always been a dream of ours to be able to play with or against each other on the big stage. There is a picture of us somewhere floating around on the internet of us sitting on the bench and just taking in the fact that we both made it to the NBA. A super special moment.
Was playing against Dirk Nowitzki one of coolest moments for you? That also happened to be your first NBA game. What do you remember from that game?
It was a cool moment for sure. It sucked though because I think he dropped something like 45 that game on our heads, so film wasn’t very fun the next day. And once again just realizing that I made it to the NBA and had my name announced as I checked in. Playing alongside people I had watched growing up as a kid.
When you look back at your time with the 76ers, do you feel like maybe you could of reached more had you gotten the opportunity. There were some other bigs there like Hollis Thompson, Brandon Davies, Chris Johnson and Henry Sims that would also land overseas.
Yeah I for sure could have. I was coming back from ankle surgery so I was just starting to get my hooping rhythm back. And I was on a non guaranteed contract the first year , in hindsight I would have resigned with them for another year. I had the opportunity but turned it down. Because I ended the year in the G my contract was void. The organization wanted to put me back on a nonguaranteed contract but I politely declined and wanted to try my luck getting back into euro-league or a job with a bit more stability.
In 2013-2014 you split time with Banvit Basketbol Kulubu (Turkey-TBL Banco di Sardegna Sassari (Italy-Serie A) averaging 9.0ppg, 5.7rpg, FGP: 59.3%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 60.5%; and played Eurocup playing 8 games averaging13.0ppg, 6.9rpg, 1.1spg, 1.4bpg, FGP: 54.2%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 74.1%. You won your first chip in Italy with the cup. What memories do you have of this nice moment?
Yeah Turkey was a cool place to play with good competition, however while me and my wife were out there we had someone break into our apartment and try to steal our things. After that we didn’t feel safe out there so we decided to make a switch. But some of my teammates from that team I still remain close with. They were a fun team to be around.Playing in Italy was probably our favorite location to play, the fans were awesome as well. We had a good group of vets and the practice style was shaped more like the NBA than other places I have played. Which means that we were more fresh going into games and had more energy to play hard for the chip and for the fans. I would go back to play there again for sure.
What do you remember from that thrilling 6 game playoff series against Milan? You battled against Keith Langford who belonged to the top players at that time.
Yeah it was tough for sure. I feel like everyone wanted Milan to win so we got some iffy calls and it made it tough to play against Milan. But being able to put our heads down and push forward was huge for us because Milan had some big time talent.
You played your rookie season with BC Partizan MT:S Beograd (Serbia-A League) playing 10 Euroleague games averaging 9.1ppg, Reb-3 (7.5rpg), 1.5apg, 1.1spg, 1.1bpg, FGP: 47.3%, 3PT: 11.1%, FT: 62.1% and then moved to Banco di Sardegna Sassari (Italy-Serie A) averaging 11.6ppg, 7.1rpg, 1.0spg, FGP: 64.6%, 3PT: 41.7%, FT: 57.9%. What do you remember being your wake up call to being in Serbia where you knew you were evry far away from home?
I mean just the long, long practices and being yelled at in a different language. As well as the different alphabet that was used out there. I just remember getting there and being like ‘ damn these practices are like twice as long as any of the longest practices I’ve had in the states.’ Also how crazy the fans were during games. Don’t get me wrong the partisan fans are some of my favorite die hard fans. I still remember some of their chants during games. But it was just a way different world than I was used to. I use to come out of games after playing, the road flares, the fights, the banners, the things being yelled at us and thrown at us, and the smoking in the stadium and thinking to myself what the hell did we just play through. That was wild. I would love to play in that environment and the partisan fans again now that I am older and understand the difference between the states and Europe.
What do you remember from that Euroleague season as a rookie. You played against legends like Juan Carlos Navarro, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Milos Teodosic, Nenad Kristic, Casey Jacobsen and Bostjan Nachbar. Were you even aware of these guys as a young rookie? Was there a guy that impressed you most then?
Honestly I didn’t know who any of them really were. To me they were just hoopers on a different team that we needed to beat. I was so ready to go play in the NBA I didn’t pay much mind to the rest of the world of basketball. I didn’t understand that there was so much talent over the waters. I don’t think Boban Marjanovic was in euro league but I loved playing against him. I used to try to dunk on him any chance I got. He was just one of the biggest people I had ever seen.
You played with young talents like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Davis Bertans. What memories do you have of these guys? They later would reach the NBA. What was it like battling them on a daily basis then?
Yeah Bogi and Bertans are my guys! It was so cool seeing them make the jump to the league they deserve it. They worked their asses off to get there. playing against them was fun in practices, we never really got to go head to head because we were different positions but watching them play was awesome.
You played parts of two seasons with brothers Drake and Travis Diener. It isn’t too often that you come across brothers. Are these guys that you have been able to keep a bond with over the years?
So they are actually cousins. Great guys! And great hoopers. I feel like when they shot the ball it was going in no matter what. They could really turn it on in games. They helped us get through a lot of tough games. We all lived in the same complex as well so our families got really close. For the most part I keep in touch with a lot of guys I have played with. From domestic guys to foreign players.
You began your college career at UCLA. You played there only two seasons. Despite leaving after two seasons what do you believe were some positives that you got out of it?
I learned that I needed to focus on basketball more. I was getting distracted and taking things for granted. I wanted to get to the NBA so badly I was not focused on the present. I was looking to far into the future for sure.
You played a season with talented Tyler Honeycut. I interviewed him in January 2018 before a Euroleague game in Bamberg and in July he passed away which shocked the NBA community. He was such a jovial guy and I only heard good things about him. What memories do you have of him?
Yeah T was a solid solid dude. It was devastating to get the news of his passing. Heart breaking. We were just together a few months prior playing in the VTB all-star game. Being able to hoop with him in college and then see his game grow and our paths cross again was special. The basketball community gets so small the higher you get. He was always laughs and jokes even in college. I’m sad that he is not with us anymore but he has family and friends that will forever love him.
You had so many great games at New Mexico. As a senior you had double figures in rebounds in 23 games. Where do you rank your monster 27/20 game against UNLV?
Man that was a fun game to play. Its definitely up there on most fun games I played. When I was at UNM my goal was to try to grab at least 15 and 15 so I had a lot of games where I was putting up big numbers. But really just hooping at UNM and in the Pit was dope. We had a lot of fun, we played well as a team also .
How did head coach Steve Alford groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career? Kind of ironic that he would later coach at UCLA.
He helped me focus in on hooping and what it was going to take to be a pro. I feel like my skills were still pretty raw, so he helped get my post game right and the preparation it takes leading up to a game to give our team the best chance of winning.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Alex Kirk?
Hahaha AK if you are reading this by chance I was killing you!
Who was the touhest player that you battled in the NCAA that went to the NBA?
Most likely Kawai, maybe James Harden
Please name your five best teammates of all-time?
Damn that’s a tough question. And I have to be honest. I don’t know if I can even answer that. I keep in touch with so many of my guys. After all these years of playing basketball and all the great people we meet along the way I don’t know how I can even answer top 5.
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore?
Bron, Kobe, Jordan
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest Jordan or Lebron?
Everyone has their own opinion, and both sides may be right for different reasons. I don’t know if that argument will ever be answered. Specially because of the different eras of hoop.
Did you see the sequel to the classic movie Coming To America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?
Haha yeah I saw it. It wasn’t terrible, but it’s tough to outdo such an iconic movie with a sequel.
Thanks Drew for the chat.