Gardner shines at Portsmouth Invitational

Published 10:43pm Saturday, April 19, 2014

After growing up watching the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament from the stands, former King’s Fork High School basketball star Davante Gardner has been making the most of his on-court time there this year.

Plays before NBA and international scouts, as well as local fans, Gardner was a standout during the 2014 tournament.

Former Marquette University and King’s Fork High School standout Davante Gardner slaps hands with his teammates after being announced pre-game at the 2014 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament on Thursday.
Former Marquette University and King’s Fork High School standout Davante Gardner slaps hands with his teammates after being announced pre-game at the 2014 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament on Thursday.

“He’s doing well,” King’s Fork head coach Josh Worrell said, as Gardner helped lead his team to Saturday night’s championship game. “He’s showcasing some of the things that he can do.”

“I feel good,” Gardner said Saturday afternoon. “I just think I need to rebound the ball a little bit better.”

Though Gardner’s role in the PIT has changed, the appeal of it remains the same. He said he loves “just the atmosphere and being home.”

Worrell returned to the event after a few years away to see his first former player showcased.

He said it remains similar. Players are cordial with the fans, who rush courtside after games to get photos with them and receive autographs. Some famous names also tend to show up, though perhaps fewer than in the past.

“When I was in maybe high school, college, Jerry West would be there all the time,” Worrell said, referring to the hall of famer and former Los Angeles Lakers star.

“To me, it’s my (NCAA) March Madness conclusion,” Lakeland High School head coach Clint Wright said of the tourney. “I look forward to the PIT each and every year.”

He brought his 12-year-old son, Clint Jr., on Friday, just to expose him to the level of play by guys who want to get paid professionally.

“He’s becoming a student, and last night was not only entertainment, but educational,” Wright said.

After finishing his career at Norfolk State University, Wright was named an alternate for the PIT.

“Just to be considered an alternate was something that I took very, very dearly,” he said.

He said the PIT is largely a platform for less-heralded players.

“It gives guys a chance to get into the greatest game of all, the NBA,” said Jerry Stackhouse, an 18-year veteran of the league who coached one of the PIT teams this year. “You don’t want to enter the real work world before you have to.”

Nansemond River High School head coach Ed Young, a former coach at the PIT, said Gardner could make it to the NBA.

“I think his chances are good,” either as a second-round selection or as a free agent competing in summer training camps, Young said.

“Play as a team and then everybody shines, so that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Gonzaga University’s David Stockton, who was on Gardner’s team. Stockton is the son of hall of famer John Stockton.

“It’s a really neat concept, because all the other camps like this are defunct,” Young said of the PIT. “I hope it never dies out.”

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