HOLLYWOOD — The Las Vegas that most people think of – bright lights, star-studded shows and, of course, enormous casinos – isn’t the Las Vegas that Duelle Gore thinks about, nor are they the reasons he’s spending the summer in the city.
Gore ignores all the tempting distractions Las Vegas offers for people in their mid-20s; instead the smooth-shooting Seminole is focused solely on his basketball career.
He has an apartment in Las Vegas. His car and truck are there, and so, too, is his dream of reaching the NBA.
After growing up on the Hollywood and Brighton reservations, playing at Okeechobee High School and being a star in his final season at Haskell Indian Nations University, Gore has played the past two seasons in professional leagues in Mexico.
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard/small forward averaged nearly 20 points for a team in Carmago – about a five-hour drive south of El Paso, Texas – this past season.
Gore, 26, understands that it takes more than putting up solid numbers in a Mexican league to attract the attention of the right people; that’s why he’s set up shop in Las Vegas, which has become a summer hotbed for pro basketball.
In order to grow his exposure with hopes of moving up the development ladder, Gore has become embedded in workouts, invitation-only pro-am games and gyms filled with fellow pros, including some from the NBA.
He trains in a basketball development facility that includes current and former NBA players, such as Lance Stephenson, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Lowry and Glenn Davis.
Gore has met former Miami Heat assistant coach and current New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale as well as RJ Barrett, the second overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft.
“Going to Vegas, going out west, was probably the best thing I’ve ever done career-wise,” Gore said in July while on a visit to the Hollywood Reservation. “Now I’m playing with NBA players and top college players. It was better for me to be out there. I’m getting more exposure, playing in front of a lot of different trainers and a lot of different workouts. I get to see what I need to work to compete with these guys to get a chance.”
When Gore went to Mexico this past season, he figured that path could bring him a step closer to the NBA.
“In Mexico, I wanted to win a championship because I thought that would be the way to propel me to the Summer League, and the Summer League would propel me to a training camp spot.
That was kind of like my set plan, but it didn’t work that way. We lost in the first round in Mexico, so we left early. I was upset,” he said.
Gore didn’t get into the Summer League, but he does play in invitation-only pro-am games with pros in Las Vegas.
He has a Houston-based agent – Mark McNeil – and said he has offers from teams in Mexico and Canada for the upcoming season.
Ideally, though, at this point in his career, Gore would like his next step to be a ticket into the G-League – the NBA’s minor league.
This summer he’s training and eating differently than in previous off-seasons.
On the court, he used to dedicate most of his workouts to improving his shooting, an appropriate focal point for a shooting guard.
But now that his shooting is “reliable,” as he describes it, Gore’s desire is to become a more complete player, so he’s concentrating on areas that he previously neglected, such as dribbling, working on pick-and-rolls and being a better small forward defender who could have to guard large forwards or small guards on any given night.
Off the court, he works out three times a day.
He’s altered his diet, including increasing his water intake and eliminating smoking, sodas and fast food.
He’s running sprints. He said he’s in the best shape of his life.
His 215-pound frame features far less body fat than it used to; his goal is to get it down to 9 percent.
Whether Gore’s hard work on and off the court lead him to a higher level remains to be seen, but wherever he plays he takes plenty of Native American pride with him.
“Every time I put on a jersey, I’m playing for my Tribe, my family, for the Natives everywhere,” he said.
But the odds of reaching the NBA are daunting. As popular as basketball is on reservations from coast to coast, Native Americans in the NBA are extremely rare, but that’s not going to deter Gore’s determination.
“I can live with me giving it my best shot and not making it than not taking one at all,” he said.
Last season Gore’s shot on the court often found its way through the nets in the Chihuahua State Basketball League in Mexico.
In January, he poured in 30 points in a 101-89 loss to Manzaneros. His sizzling night included 11-of-13 from the field, 2-for-2 from the line and 2-for-2 from 3-point range.
In February, he scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds, had two steals and one block in a win against Cerveceros.
Gore said the regular season games usually drew about 1,500 fans; the playoffs had about 2,000.
The following night his hot streak continued as he drained 28 points, snagged six rebounds and had three steals and two assists in a win against Soles.
His toughest challenge was dealing with communication issues with coaches and players because he didn’t speak Spanish, but he has since learned the language.
“Best thing was me learning Spanish. I didn’t know anything. I had to speak Spanish on the radio. I was nervous,” he said.
As for living in Las Vegas, Gore said he’s too determined and driven toward basketball to be occupied with anything that might derail his plans.
“When I go out to Vegas, I’m not out on the Strip. The Strip is cool, but that’s more like a different crowd, the party crowd. My goal is to get to the NBA. That’s what I’ve been concentrating on the last three, four years,” he said.
His life isn’t only about hoops. He’s discovered hobbies that he can enjoy long after his playing days end.
“I’m into art now,” he said. “I love art, I love painting, drawing. I never knew that until like a year ago. I love reading. I’ve been reading a lot more.
I’m trying to learn something new every day. That’s what helps me stay focused in Vegas,” he said.
Even when he’s in other time zones or other countries, Gore maintains close ties with his family back on the reservations.
He returned to Florida in July in time to celebrate his mother Claudia’s birthday.
All of his siblings play basketball, so it’s not too difficult to find someone to shoot around with in the gyms.
“My family is what keeps me going. That’s what pushes me,” he said.
Gore also wants to give back to the Tribe and be someone the kids look up to for reasons other than he’s 6-foot-6.
“I see the little kids,” he said. “I grew up the same way they did. They have all the opportunities. They need someone to take charge and lead them. That’s what I want; I want to be a role model. I come from Brighton. I come from where these kids come from. If I was just to turn my back and keep going and not really think about them, it’s like I’m not doing any service to anyone.”