Aaron Gordon joined an exclusive club Tuesday that includes arguably the greatest basketball player in the history of the sport.
The Arizona freshman was named the 2013 Male of Athlete of the Year by USA Basketball. Gordon helped the Americans win the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championship last summer and was named the tournament's most valuable player.
Gordon said he found out about the award "a couple weeks ago" via text message from his mother.
"My mom texted me with a bunch of exclamation points," Gordon said at a news conference at McKale Center.
"It really is an honor. There's a couple of guys up there who are on the list that I really look up to and admire their basketball talents. So to be affiliated with them on a list like this and to receive an award like this is really, really an honor."
The 6-9 forward averaged team highs of 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds to go with two steals per game despite playing 18.8 minutes off the bench.
"USA Basketball has known what a tremendous competitor and teammate Aaron is since he first played for USA Basketball in 2011, and what he accomplished in 2013 was special," said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball CEO/executive director, in a release. "To earn MVP of the U19 tournament is remarkable, and to do it while coming off the bench is incredible. We are very proud to recognize his performance with this award."
Added Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who led Team USA: "Aaron is a great player, and the thing I really give him and the rest of the players credit for is that every single one of those guys is a high-profile player and they all knew going in that there was going to be some form of sacrifice that was going to have to take place for us to win."
Gordon also played on USA's Nike Hoop Summit team, which lost to the World Select Team 112-98 last April in Portland.
The San Jose, Calif., native joins a list of past recent winners that includes LeBron James (2012), Duke's Jabari Parker (2011) and Kevin Durant (2010). A number of basketball Hall of Famers also have won the award, including Reggie Miller (2002), Scottie Pippen (1996) and two-time honoree Michael Jordan (1983 and 1984).
Jordan and Pippen also were honored in 1992 as a members of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team.
The weight of those names are not lost on UA head coach Sean Miller.
"It's an honor and really a privilege, for me, to have a player that I coach and that we have in our program like Aaron Gordon who would receive an award like this," Miller said.
"I have no doubt that he will one day be in their category, and rightfully so."
Added Gordon: "People like LeBron James, that caliber and that status, it's just kind of surreal to be put in the same category as him."
In his first season at Arizona, Gordon is tied for second on the team at 12.2 points on 50 percent shooting to go with team highs of 7.9 rebounds and 17 total blocks through 17 games.
The top-ranked Wildcats, who set a school record with 17 consecutive wins to open a season, return to action and the McKale Center floor Thursday against Arizona State.
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