KF’s Gardner makes first team all-state

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, March 25, 2010

Davante Gardner led his King’s Fork basketball team this past season to a 24-3 record. Gardner led the way in the paint to the Bulldogs’ second straight undefeated season through the Southeastern District, KF’s third consecutive district tourney title and fourth straight year reaching the Eastern Region Tournament.

Last week, KF’s senior center was awarded with a spot on the VHSCA (Virginia High School Coaches Association) Group AAA All-State Team as the top center in the state.

Gardner surpassed 1,000 career points, becoming the third Bulldog player to reach the milestone, early this past season. Gardner’s classmate, forward Jay Copeland, became KF’s fourth 1,000-point scorer a little later in the season.

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Gardner finished his three-year varsity career with 1,431 points and 992 rebounds. This season, Gardner averaged 23 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks per game.

More than stats though, Gardner’s leadership ability was tested after senior guards Jaquon Parker and Jamar Wertz graduated from KF’s 2008-09 state championship team, with Parker going on to the University of Cincinnati and Wertz going to Maryland-Baltimore County.

The first-team all-state honor, after Gardner was a second-team all-state player as a junior, is just one sign of Gardner’s improvement.

“It feels real, real good,” Gardner said.

“Vocally, putting forth my best effort all the time and getting my team involved,” are the areas Gardner feels he’s grown the most in.

Normally, a center finds it tough to be a team leader. A team’s point guard usually is charged with distributing the ball and organizing his team on the floor.

“Davante was more vocal than he ever had been. He stepped up for us in big games. He said ‘give me the ball. I’ll put the team on my back and let’s go,’” King’s Fork head coach Joshua Worrell said. “That part of his game grew a lot.”

Gardner, while being 6-foot-8, has the unique ability to shoot, handle and pass the ball anywhere on the floor. Learning when and how to use that ability best was another growing process during his last three years.

“Coach (Worrell) let me do more of that stuff, as long as I was smart with it and not just joking around with it,” Gardner said.

Many games this season, Gardner led the Bulldogs in assists and steals as well as points, rebounds and blocks. A college coach is unlikely to turn Gardner into his next point guard, but clearly Gardner’s college prospects are exciting.

Big East schools South Florida and Marquette, along with Virginia Commonwealth, Ball State and more are recruiting Gardner.

“It’s kind of hard to deal with. Both (South Florida and Marquette) are very good schools. I’m just trying to find the best fit and where I’ll be most successful,” Gardner said.

“It’s special. It’s something to be very proud of. It’s tough to be one of the top five players in the state,” Worrell said. “It’s a great accomplishment and he’s the one that did the work to get it.”