Cavalier Corner

April 2023

Cavalier Corner is the publication just for UVa sports fans!

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 13 of 35

14 CAVALIER CORNER BY WILLIAM JARRETT A s the curtain began to close on the 2022-23 Virginia men's basketball season, fifth-year forward Jayden Gardner reflected on a special two years in Charlottesville, where he has made a lifetime of memories and achieved per- sonal and statistical milestones. A native of Wake Forest, N.C., Gardner ar- rived at UVA in 2021 with high expectations for himself and his new team after transfer- ring from East Carolina University. In his three years at ECU, where he was the focal point of the squad, he averaged 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. At UVA, Gardner immediately made his presence felt and continued posting impres- sive numbers. He averaged 15.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game during the 2021-22 campaign, and he was named to the All-ACC third team. This season he was named an All- ACC honorable mention and was pivotal yet again to the UVA offense, helping the team clinch a share of the ACC regular-season title. He averaged 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in the regular season, while leading the Hoos in scoring nine times. While Gardner may not have been relied on as much for offensive production as he was earlier in his career, that did not change the impact that he brought to the game, ac- cording to head coach Tony Bennett. "He's worked really hard [to adjust this year]," Bennett said. "He has improved his de- fense, his ability to slide his feet and get after things defensively. I think he has improved and is just getting better at fitting in and as- sessing, 'What does the game need?' and try- ing to do that for the success of the team. "He just wants to win, and I love that. He ob- viously scored a lot of points and has a ton of rebounds from East Carolina and from last year." This season, Gardner hit a couple major milestones, notching his 2,000th career point and 1,000th career rebound. He's one of four active players in men's college basketball to have achieved this feat, joining a legendary list of former college basketball icons who have done the same, 19 of whom have been in- ducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Notable names to have reached this mark include Tim Duncan, Alonzo Mourning, Christian Laettner, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Oscar Rob- ertson and Virginia alumnus Ralph Sampson. "I've always been relentless attacking the glass and helping the team how I can, so it's great to be mentioned with those names," Gardner said. "I watched Tim Dun- can and some of those players, as well as watching other guys like Charles Barkley when he was at Auburn. "Guys like Barkley that are a bit undersized that have had a lot of success in college hoops helped paved the way for my game." Gardner has been incredibly thankful for the situations and opportunities he was placed in both at East Carolina and Virginia, remembering all the support he was given by his current and former coaches, players and fan bases while he approached the milestone. "When it happened it was very exciting," Gardner said. "I'm just grateful for the oppor- tunity, fortunate enough to play with a lot of good players in my time, they gave me a lot of set-up passes. It is also great to have gotten both of those at home. I got the points in our opener against NC Central and the rebounds against Syracuse, it was super special to have gotten both of those in front of our fans here." He only knew part of the overall mile- stone he was approaching heading into the season, as he began the year with 1,999 points and 928 rebounds under his belt through his 116-game career, with 81 of those games being played with ECU. "I knew about the points coming in," Gardner noted. "I knew I only needed one, but I didn't know about the rebounds at all until someone on the staff told me around the middle of December, 'Hey, you're going to get it in two or three games,' and I had to ask, 'Wait, get what?' "After that I made sure I had to keep doing what I was doing and crashing the boards, and I knew that the numbers would come along eventually." Before joining the Cavaliers, Gardner had recorded 1,462 points and 705 rebounds with East Carolina, and he knew his produc- tion could slow down due to the size of his role changing at Virginia and the overall competitiveness of the ACC compared to the American Athletic Conference. But that only excited Gardner to prove that his game could translate to a higher caliber of play. "I think in the American Athletic Confer- ence you only get like three or four teams that are on an elite-caliber level, where in the ACC you're playing at that high of a level every single night," Gardner said. "So, I really just had to make sure I play my best ball every night, not just against three or four teams, because now all these teams in the conference have multiple guys that are ca- pable of shutting you down or scoring a lot. "All these players in the ACC have length, size and athleticism. So, for me when I was coming to UVA, I was just making sure my motor and energy stays the same through- out the whole season." It was not stats or records that lured Gardner to Virginia and the ACC, but the lifelong dream of playing on basketball's biggest stage: March Madness. After a turbulent 2021-22 season in which the Cavaliers finished with a 21-14 record after losing in the quarterfinals of the NIT, they have rediscovered their groove through a veteran starting lineup, deep squad and the addition of key impact play- ers, including first-years Isaac McKneely and Ryan Dunn, as well as Ohio University graduate transfer Ben Vander Plas, with MILESTONES MILESTONES AND MARCH AND MARCH Jayden Gardner Reflects On His Achievements And Goals During His Time At Virginia

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Cavalier Corner - April 2023