Gardner not going anywhere

The Cats will be complete next season. Jason Gardner announced that he will return for his senior season making the Wildcats one of the favorites for the national title. With Gardner bypassing the NBA the Cats return all five starters from a team that went to the Sweet 16 a year ago.

Gardner went back and forth on his decision, but finally decided that one more year in college would be for the best.

"After doing a lot of research and talking with people that I trust, I think it's best for me to return (to Arizona) for my senior season," said Gardner. "Playing in the NBA is still a dream of mine, but I really enjoy being in college and playing with my teammates. A year from now, I'll have my degree in education and another year of experience."

Gardner met with a number of people including coach Lute Olson, NBA analyst Bill Walton and various members of his family.

Gardner in now in position to leave Arizona as one of the greatest players in the school's storied history. He will surely rise up the career scoring list and another deep run in the tournament would likely cement him as one of the best point guards to wear the cardinal and navy.

Gardner has scored 1,512 points, knocked down 252 three-point field goals, passed out 464 assists and collected 164 steals. He and the Wildcats have amassed a 79-25 (.760) record over the past three seasons. He is in the top 10 in 10 different categories.

"I can't think of a better way of getting ready for a career on the next level than to spend another year playing for Coach Olson," said Gardner. "He's helped put a lot of guys into the NBA and I hope to be his next top-five pick. After four great years here at Arizona, I know I'll be ready to take that next step ."

After his sophomore season Gardner tested the NBA waters but withdrew his name from consideration for the 2001 NBA Draft.

"It's not an unexpected decision, but we are glad that he's decided to return," said Olson. "Jason has done a good job of researching his draft prospects and we think that he's made a wise decision."

The Wildcats will return all nine scholarship players from last season's team and add three highly touted freshmen recruits. Several publications and media outlets have projected the Wildcats as a top five team next season.

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