Sweet (Shooting In) Home(wood) Alabama

Basketball recruiting for the 2005 class is now officially hot and heavy for Stanford, with a number of frontcourt and backcourt talents coming into focus for summer decisions. One player who has slipped completely under the public recruiting radar has been Alabama guard John David Gardner. He has shunned the AAU circuit and all of its exposure, but the Cardinal have found him nevertheless...

The last time Stanford recruited a combo guard from Alabama, Cardinal fans endured one of the more excrutiating and tension-filled recruiting sagas we have seen in years. The fight for Jai Miller pitted the football and basketball programs against in-state powers Alabama and Auburn, and the West Coast suitors came up the surprise victors. But the rollercoaster did not end there - with Miller being drafted in the 4th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft that June and signing just hours later with the Florida Marlins. The three-sport superstar is forbidden from playing college sports for five years under that contract, and he is a longshot to set foot again on Stanford's campus.

So you'll excuse Cardinalmaniacs™ if they have a bitter taste in their mouth when the Yellowhammer State is mentioned - for a 6'4" combo guard, no less. But the story must be told of John David Gardner, a high school point guard from Homewood (Ala.) who projects as a shooting guard in college. If you are looking for a positive draw into this story, remember that Homewood High School gave the Cardinal famed punter Kevin Miller in the mid-1990s. Stanford has gone back to that school this spring for their shot in the quiet recruitment of this Second Team All-State guard.

Gardner led the Patriots to a state tournament Sweet 16 finish and 25-8 overall record, the best in Homewood history. The junior point guard averaged 16 points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals per game. While he was the floor general who was in charge of distributing the ball, Gardner also was a primary scoring threat for his team.

"I was our point guard but I was also our first scoring option," he describes. "I get other guys shots when I can, and we run a pretty balanced offense."

There is more balance in Gardner's game these days, as well. He was a strict outside shooter his freshman and sophomore seasons, but added more dribble-drive penetration. He now scores half his points from the perimeter and half going to the basket. The versatility has aided his ability to score in clutch situations, but he still understands his greatest strength on the hardwood.

"Shooting is still probably one of my strongest points," the 6'4" gunner notes. "I shot 40% three's this year and 54% overall."

You have heard so very little, if anything at all, about Gardner because of his non-existant AAU exposure. He made a conscious decision to not partake in the off-season club circuit, for several reasons.

"It really wasn't worth it," the Alabama guard begins. "There is too much travelling when I am better off staying here and doing invidividual workouts. Also with the teams that are around here, it really isn't too much fun."

So you did not hear about Gardner during the April evaluation period. Nor did you see him at any of the big Memorial Day tournaments. He will not be seen the Orlando or Las Vegas events in July, either. The only chance that college coaches will have to watch him in competitive environments will be the Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis the first part of July. He will play the following week at the state's North-South All-Star Game on July 15, alongside talents like Richard Hendrix and Yamene Coleman.

Prior to that impending mid-summer exposure, the reeled in offers from Ole Miss, UAB, Western Kentucky, UNC-Wilmington, Butler and Tennessee Tech. Gardner tells The Bootleg that his favorites are Stanford, Auburn, Ole Miss, UNC-Wilmington, Butler and UAB.

His primary recruiter at Stanford is assistant coach Russell Turner, who has explained the Cardinal's need for a player like him. "He says they need shooters - people who can get the ball in the hole," Gardner explains. "He hopes I can get admitted. While nothing has been promised, it seems like they would have a scholarship for me if I get accepted. They gave me an application in April, and I'm almost through with it. I should have it done any day. I have the recommendations and am finishing up the essays."

The Birmingham area student-athlete standout carries a 3.87 GPA at his high school and has scored a 25 on the ACT.

"I'm going to try and visit a couple more schools unofficially this summer, and then I will have my decision by the end of July or early August," he declares. "I'm pretty sure I will visit Stanford soon. Coach Turner wants me to visit when the players are around, so we are just trying to figure that out to schedule the trip."

Gardner also had the chance recently to converse with new Stanford head coach Trent Johnson, which speaks to the level of interest the Cardinal have in this Alabama sharpshooter.

"I already knew a good bit about Stanford from Coach Turner, so Coach Johnson told me about who he was and what was his background," the recruit relates. "It was nice."

With the admissions application about to be submitted, and an unofficial visit likely late this month or in July, there are still a few hoops for both Gardner and Stanford to jump through before they might come together. Nevertheless, it is not too early to ask about decision criteria, including how an Alabama boy would feel about leaving the South to spend his college years on the West Coast.

"My parents know that Stanford is a long way from home, but they understand what a unique option that would be for me. If you go to school at Stanford, you can pretty much name your job after that," the recruit opines. "Education is a big deal for me. I want to get set up for after school. My overall decision will be based on what school is the most comfortable for me - with the players and the coaches. The players are key - that's who I'll spend my of my time in college."

John David Gardner is currently ranked a three-star recruit by TheInsiders and is slotted as the 25th best point guard in the 2005 class. He says that Stanford is recruiting him "more two than one" when projecting which backcourt position he would play on The Farm.

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