KFHS alum makes a name at Marquette

Published 8:45 pm Saturday, February 23, 2013

Former King’s Fork basketball player Davante Gardner will always be known locally for having been part of the Bulldogs’ 2008-09 state championship team. Gardner is proof, however, that honing a good work ethic and leadership skills can put one in a position for even greater accomplishments down the road.

King's Fork High School alumnus Davante Gardner goes up for a shot against Georgetown. (Courtesy Marquette University Athletics)

King’s Fork High School alumnus Davante Gardner goes up for a shot against Georgetown. (Courtesy Marquette University Athletics)

A junior at Marquette University now, Gardner is the second-leading scorer for a team that, going into Saturday’s game against Villanova, was No. 17 in the country with a 19-6 record and tied for first in the Big East Conference along with No. 8 Syracuse and No. 11 Georgetown.

King’s Fork coach Josh Worrell has followed Gardner and his continued maturation under Golden Eagles head coach Buzz Williams.

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“Davante has bought into what Buzz wants him to do, offensively and defensively,” Worrell said. “I’ve seen Davante play a couple times this year (in person).”

Gardner is one of two players on the team averaging double figures, putting up 12 points a game, along with a team-high 5.0 rebounds. He does this even though he’s not a starter.

“I’m the sixth man coming off the bench,” Gardner said.

It’s a change from his role at King’s Fork, where he started all four years of high school. Worrell has noticed Gardner’s playing time increase, however.

“You’re staying on the floor more now, because you’re playing better defense,” Worrell said he told his former charge.

Worrell, who has also visited Golden Eagle practices, points out that Gardner’s improved defense has come because “he’s having to work at it at practice every day.”

Coach Williams is pleased with Gardner’s development.

“Davante’s growth has been superb, and I do not believe he has met the ceiling of who he can become as a person, as a student, or as a player,” he wrote in an e-mail.

College brings with it a lot of things that require student-athletes to adapt. Gardner compared his experience with what he was used to in high school.

“Off the court, you just got to get right with your time,” he said.

Since classes are scattered throughout the day, good time management becomes paramount.

“And on the court, it’s… mostly mental, because they’ve got guys that have been playing college basketball for a long time, and they already know the game. So, as a freshman coming in, you’ve got to hurry up and get used to that so you can be as good as them.”

One thing he learned as a Bulldog that has served him particularly well is how to be a leader. He said that training has helped communicate “what’s the smart thing to do. So, you have to bring that up to the college level, but do even better at it.”

Gardner’s leadership responsibilities came early, as he was a freshman starter at King’s Fork. In college, he said, one of the biggest challenges to leading is “just helping out the freshmen and make sure they’re good and know what’s going on in practice and in the game, and talk to them more off the court, because they don’t live with us.”

Leaders will be scrutinized and need to pass muster to command other players’ respect. Gardner has passed that test both on and off the court.

“He is in his 6th semester as a student, and has gone to summer school each year,” Coach Williams stated. “During that 3.5 year period, he has yet to ever be late for class, late to tutoring appointments, has never missed a class or a practice. I think that daily work ethic is why I have such a strong belief that he will continue to improve.”

Gardner, a communications major, intends to go into sports broadcasting, but not too soon. He said he hopes to continue playing basketball “until my body dies out.”

The next step in his basketball journey comes on Monday in a critical match-up against Syracuse.

“We’ll be at home, so we’ll have the crowd on our side, so just attack the zone and play Marquette basketball like we work every day in practice,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll come out with the win.”