The 6-4, 180-pounder stood out at last week's Alabama North South All-Star Game in Montgomery and is being recruited by a variety of colleges, including Auburn. The Tigers' head coach, Jeff Lebo, personally scouted Gardner at the all-star outing.
It was a game that Gardner was concerned that he might have to skip after suffering an injury at an event that brought in top prospects from across the country. "In Indianapolis at Nike Camp I rolled it on a guy's foot," Gardner tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I wasn't sure I was going to be playing in the all-star game, but I did what I could. I was about 65 percent. It was pretty tender."
The guard taped the ankle and even with a noticeable limp he showed a smooth style on both ends of the court. He hit 3-4 field goals, including 1-2 on threes, and finished with nine points, three assists and three rebounds in 18 minutes of action. He helped the North All-Stars take an 86-66 victory.
"We thought we had the best team and most talent on our team," he says. "We just had to come out there and share the ball like not many all-star teams do. I thought we did a good job of doing that and rebounding and because of that we got out to an early lead and never let go."
The guard says the all-star week was a positive experience. "The competition you play against and the friends you make are what made it good," he says. "The guys you play against are going to be playing with you and against you in college and other places like that. That is what I like most about it."
John David Gardner drives to the basket in the Alabama North-South All-Star Game.
On the subject of colleges, Gardner looks like he will have a variety of choices. He has taken an unofficial visit to Auburn to tour the facilities and meet the new coaching staff. "I am definitely interested in Auburn," he says. "Coach Lebo has been recruiting me since he got there. I really like him. I like it down there."
Gardner, who is an honor student, says that other SEC teams recruiting him include Ole Miss, LSU and Alabama and he is also attracting interest from Western Kentucky, UNC-Wilmington, UAB, Butler, Stanford and others."
The all-star game in Montgomery may be his last big event of the summer, but that could change. "I might be going out to Las Vegas to play in an tournament later this summer," he says. "An AAU team in Louisiana has asked me to play with them. I might do that and I might not."
Homewood is not known for its basketball teams, but last year the Patriots finished 25-8 with Gardner leading the way at point guard as he averaged 16 points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals per game. He originally broke into the starting lineup as a ninth grader and started half of the games that year and will be a full-time starter for a third straight year for the 2004-2005 season.
"The best part of my game, I would say, is being able to handle the ball, seeing the floor and being able to shoot it," says Gardner, who made 54 percent of his field goals as a junior, including 40 percent on three-pointers."
With a frame that can definitely add more weight and strength as he matures, adding muscle is a priority for the guard as he prepares for his final high school season. "I am working on always trying to stay in the weight room and get bigger and stronger," he says.
Playing in games like the all-star contest in Montgomery and the camp in Indianapolis are part of his growing process as a player. "The Nike Camp was fun to me being there with supposedly the top 180 to 200 players in the country plus a lot of coaches," Gardner says. "It was great competition."