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KF’s Gardner chooses Marquette

King’s Fork senior Davante Gardner made it two Bulldog boys basketball players going to Big East schools in two years Monday, accepting a scholarship to attend Marquette University.

The long recruiting process and final choice for King’s Fork’s 6-foot-8 center came down to the Golden Eagles and another Big East school, South Florida.

“I liked the atmosphere there and all the people up there. It’s a whole lot of stress off me,” Gardner said.

Gardner is joining a program coming off its 28th season reaching the NCAA Tournament. Marquette, located in Milwaukee, has one national championship (1977) and three Final Four appearances in its history.

“It feels really great. I’m ready to play versus Jaquon Parker, at Cincinnati. The Big East is one of the toughest conferences,” Gardner said.

“I like the basketball program and the style of play there,” Gardner said. “I like the way they push the ball up the floor because I like to run. I like their offense and their intensity.”

“It’s a tribute to how hard the kids have worked,” said KF head coach Joshua Worrell about his recent players going on to Division I scholarships.

Gardner is the fourth KF boys basketball player to go on to a Division I program in the last two years. Jaquon Parker is at Cincinnati. Jamar Wertz is at Maryland-Baltimore County. Last week, Jay Copeland signed with Ball State.

Basketball teammates, but as far as college scholarships go, football standouts Dominique Patterson and Derek Wright were on hand with Gardner and Copeland Monday for a celebration with family and friends in King’s Fork’s library. Patterson will be playing football for Virginia Tech and Wright is going to Towson.

All six players were critical players on King’s Fork’s 2008-09 state championship team. For this year’s senior class, they leave the Bulldogs on a run of four straight Eastern Region Tournament seasons, three straight Southeastern District Tournament titles and back-to-back undefeated seasons in the Southeastern.

Clint Wright, who’s coached all four in basketball since they were all 11 years old, spoke briefly during the gathering.

“These guys have brought great basketball years here (at King’s Fork) and I’m sure these guys will be remembered very well for a long time to come,” Wright said.

Marquette and South Florida were the only two schools to offer scholarships to Gardner, but that doesn’t mean those were the only programs interested in Gardner, a center with obvious size and strength, but also excellent passing, ball-handling and outside shooting ability.

The two Big East schools were the only two to offer, said Worrell, because Gardner had made it clear those were the two schools he was truly interested in. Even in the last few days, the likes of Maryland and Penn State had called to make sure nothing had changed.

“He’s going to be a very good player and he’ll continue to work hard,” Worrell said.

“In the end, he’s certainly found a good spot. Marquette always has a lot of excellent guards and he can be a good target man for them inside,” Worrell said.

Gardner is already confident he’ll fit in well with the Golden Eagles.

“I’ve just got to get used to a new place and a new team. I think the coaches already know me and I like them. I just want to make them happy and try to win a lot of games,” Gardner said.

Last season, Marquette made its fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and finished the season 23-11.