Almost a year ago, DaJuan Gordon walked off the floor after suffering a stinging defeat against Whitney Young in the Sectional Championship game. A promising year ended in overtime after Curie blew a five-point advantage with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
It would be a long offseason, but Gordon and his teammates returned on a mission. Curie, a public school located on Chicago’s Southwest Side, is currently on a 15-game winning streak with an impressive 29-1 record.
The squad’s most recent win was its biggest yet. Curie defeated preseason favorite Morgan Park to win the Chicago city title. The Condors prevailed 65-60.
“It feels good,” Gordon said after the victory. “Now, nobody can say anything to us. Right now, we are the best.”
Quite literally, nobody was expecting this from Curie except maybe the players and some optimistic fans. The Condors lost almost all of their major contributors from last year’s squad, and several of them are now playing college basketball:
G Maurice Commander (UT Chattanooga)
G Marquise Walker (Division I recruit who transferred to West Aurora High School)
G Demarco Graham (Chicago City All-Star)
SF Tyree Martin (Missouri Western State)
PF Treavon Martin (SIU-Edwardsville)
C Tyler Clarke (University of Illinois-Springfield)
With so many losses to key players, Curie wasn’t on the radar as being a legitimate city or state champion. Gordon was expected to be a star player, though. He exploded onto the scene over the summer with his AAU squad Team Rose. He averaged 20 points per game, which was good enough for fourth best on the Adidas circuit. He committed to Kansas State before the start of his senior season. But with that, everyone was overlooking the rest of Gordon’s team.
“Nobody thought we would win,” Gordon said. “But nobody knew that this was our same team from our sophomore year. A couple people left, but it’s basically the same team.”
And it’s been those great unknown players that have been the X-Factors in Curie’s remarkable season. Last year’s team was so deep that seniors Trevon Hamilton and Justin Harmon, along with junior Ramean Hinton didn’t quite get the type of notoriety that they deserved. Media members were quick to overlook the Condors, but quietly the team went about its business during the offseason.
“A lot of people thought we weren’t good,” Gordon said. “We were low in the rankings, too, but it didn’t do nothing but motivate us.”
Curie also added senior Damari Nixon over the offseason, who’s been instrumental to the team’s success. Nixon transferred over from Fenwick High School (Oak Park, IL).
And somehow, everything came together for Curie. Not only are the Condors the champions of Chicago, they also look like the best team in Illinois— and even one of the Top 25 teams in the entire country. Curie checked in at No. 15 in the latest USA TODAY Super 25 rankings.
But of course, the job isn’t finished yet. The ultimate prize of a state championship in the 4A classification is still at stake. And you don’t have to look too far in the past to see a nationally ranked Chicago team that won a city title and achieved a national ranking, but got beat in the state playoffs.
Last year’s Simeon team was considered by many to be the most dominant Wolverines squad they’d ever seen. Led by current Iowa State freshman Talen Horton-Tucker, Simeon was ranked No. 5 in the country, but were ultimately stunned by Whitney Young in the 4A super-sectionals.
“Just stay the same and not do anything different,” Gordon said about what it’ll take for Curie to finish as champions. “Play the same way, because we’ve got a target on our back.”
It would certainly be a magical ending if Curie is able to complete the dream. But no matter what transpires, Gordon has a special future ahead of him. The 6-foot-3 senior will bring versatility, dynamic scoring and an untamable will to win when he arrives at Kansas State.
“Whatever Coach Weber needs,” Gordon said about how he’ll contribute as a freshman.
“I can do everything … I can guard one through five, and I can play one through five. I know every position and I can score.”
Gordon finished with a game-high 28 points in the city title showdown against Morgan Park.