Jason "tested the waters" of the NBA last year at this time and went through the pre-draft camps before withdrawing his name after he was told by the scouts and GMs attending the camps that he would be wise to return to Arizona for his junior season.
Since Gardner did not hired an agent, his college eligibility was not effected and he returned to lead the Wildcats to the Pac-10 Tournament Championship and a Sweet Sixteen finish in the NCAA Tournament. All with an inexperienced team featuring six freshmen in its rotation.
During the season, Gardner was the undisputed leader and go-to guy during crunch time. He hit countless big shots that helped the Wildcats overachieve. But he came back to prove he was a NBA-caliber player, and in many ways he felt he proved his case. Not everyone agrees and that's what's so disappointing to Jason.
"It's been a very difficult decision for Jason," his mother said early last week. "He really wants to leave. He wants to put his name (in the draft), but everyone is telling him it's not his time."
After meeting with Olson for the second time last Friday, Jason and his mother went to Phoenix to get away from the press and isolate themselves from those whose advice they didn't need. They returned to Tucson on Monday morning and met with Olson again.
"(Jason) still wants to leave," his mother said before the Monday morning meeting. "I don't know what else I can say (to change his mind). He knows I don't want him to leave, but I don't want to be the reason he stays either. But before he tells everyone, he wants to give Coach Olson another chance to answer the question, ‘Why should he return?'"
Well, it's obvious now that Olson must have gathered enough information to at least slow his down a little. Then when his Uncle Greg flew in from Los Angeles to reinforce Olson and his mothers' concerns about leaving, Jason reconsidered.
On Wednesday, Jason gave his passport to the basketball office so it can be renewed for the team's scheduled trip to Australia in May. Today, he practiced with the team. All strong indications he'll return.
"I think Jason has finally decided to stay," his mother said late this afternoon. "But he wants to wait until Monday or Tuesday before making the announcement. I'm so glad this over."
Now the speculation will shift to the stability of Will Bynum. It's been rumored that if Gardner stayed, Bynum would leave. My gut feeling (and that's all it is), Bynum will leave.