Getting to Know Meghan Gardler

In her junior year at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Penn, Meghan Gardler was something of a role player. A 6-0 wing, Gardler averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds for the nationally ranked team. Then, this past Christmas at the Nike TOC in Arizona, Cardinal O'Hara's leading scorer, Amy Gillespie, went down with an injury and Gardler, now a senior, stepped her game up.

After averaging 11.7 points in the first three games of the tournament, Gardler scored 33 in the final game to help her team win the Consolation Bracket. The game was played against Jacki Gemelo's St. Mary's High School. Since then, Gardler has picked up her scoring and is currently averaging 14 points to go along with 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists while playing a national schedule for a Top 25 school.

The Philadelphia-area player doesn't mind having to score more. She doesn't mind defending or doing the little things that help her team. What she really hates, though, is losing.

"I love to win. I love to be part of a team and taking part in team play," said Gardler.

Linda Genther, Gardler's AAU coach, agrees. "Meg is the type of person who puts winning above everything else. She doesn't care about stats, scoring or newspaper coverage. She just wants to win."

Gardler comes by her attitude honestly. Her father is Bud Gardler a former St. Joseph's University player and current head coach of the Cardinal O'Hara boys' basketball team. Brother Chris also played basketball for St. Joe's and Chris' wife, the former Katie Curry, played for Jim Foster at St. Joe's. She was recently inducted into St. Joseph's Hall of Fame.

Bud Gardler used to coach at another Philadelphia high school, Bishop Kendrick, the alma mater of UConn coach Geno Auriemma. Auriemma played for Gardler there and the two of them became friends. While Meghan Gardler has known Auriemma "forever", he's never tried to coach her.

"No, I think he's staying out of it until next year", Gardler laughed.

The relationship may have introduced Gardler to Auriemma, but it's not what got her the scholarship offer. Genther thinks Gardler has a lot to offer UConn.

"Meghan will be a very good role player at UConn – I think Geno needs that," Genther said. "She can really defend post players because she has long arms and a very, very high basketball IQ from her dad. She can shoot the three. She needs to work on her handle and going left, but she's a legit 6-0 wing player."

When asked why she chose UConn, Gardler didn't mention her dad's relationship with Auriemma. She immediately responded that she chose Connecticut because of the team's reputation and because she loved the campus when she visited. The players also made a big impression on her. "They're so nice," she said. Gardler is undecided about her major in college.

When asked about her strengths, Gardler said that her outside shot and her defense, especially, are her best assets. "Defense is what I like to do best", she said. Gardler's AAU team, the Comets, practice against top area teams, including Elena DelleDonne's Fencor. Genther says that Gardler can guard DelleDonne and always does when the teams practice but that "Elena is tough to stop". The Comets have also played Tina Charles' Liberty Belles and Gardler did a respectable job defending the country's top player.

"Last year, she really [defended Charles well] when O'Hara played Christ the King because she's very smart," Genther explained.

Cardinal O'Hara is currently ranked #24 in the USA Today poll. Being a ranked team usually inspires the opponents to their best efforts.

"We have a target on our backs," admits Gardler. "Teams come out ready to play against us and all the other teams like it when we lose. I think that will help me prepare for UConn, although I'm not used to huge crowds yet."

The huge crowds in college will be one thing but there's a lot more to playing at UConn. Genther understands that Gardler will have a big adjustment to make when she goes to college.

"I hope she redshirts her freshman year to see what it takes to play at the highest level of women's basketball," Genther said. "If Meg can deal with first year anxiety and the amount of work that college ball requires, she'll do fine." Gardler, however, isn't so sure about redshirting. She gave a non-committal "maybe" when asked if that was a possibility. No decision has been made at this time.

Whether or not she redshirts, Gardler is looking forward to going to UConn.

"I can't wait to be part of a team as good as UConn. And Tina – I can't wait to get on a court with her," Gardler said.

Genther thinks that Gardler will be an asset. "Meg is very aware that she'll be considered a role player at UConn, which would suit her fine. She is the player that every team has to have to win at a high level."

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