Brandon Gardner is clear that the only way to reach his goal of playing in the NBA is for his game to consistently evolve.
To that end, he’s not just OK with the fact that he doesn’t even recognize the player he’s become in the last year, he’s downright excited about it.
“I’m a completely different player now,” Gardner said. “In every way really, but more in my mentality. I became more of a dog. I’ve always played with energy, but I’m definitely more of a dog now.”
Gardner attributes his new relentless mindset to the level of competition he faced in practice while running with Team Thad (Tenn.) this summer.
“You’re not gonna make it if you’re coming into practice trying to be cool,” Gardner said. “Honestly, the practices were even tougher than the games. We brought it every day. That was the most competitive experience I’ve ever had.”
The consistent grind translated into a productive summer for Gardner, averaging 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks a game for a loaded Team Thad squad, which competed in the Nike EYBL.
More recently, his overdrive approach has Alabama, Georgia, Florida, N.C. State, Auburn, Maryland and Kansas jumping into the mix trying to land Gardner.
Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Florida State, Tulsa, Georgetown, Illinois, Wake Forest, Clemson, DePaul, Texas A&M, USC and LSU, among many others have all either offered or shown serious interest in Gardner.
Gardner said he’ll also consider pro options.
“Most of the coaches just love my versatility and the fact that I can impact the game in so many ways,” Gardner said. “I’m looking at setting up a few visits soon, but I don’t have dates right now. Right now, I’m just getting to know the coaches.”
For now, Gardner is settling in at Word of God Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) after transferring from Gray Collegiate (Columbia, S.C.) for his junior season.
“I just felt like it was the best move for my development,” Gardner said. “I feel like this move is gonna help me grow my game; that’s the most important part for me. I’m working harder than I ever have and I’m already growing. My mentality is to dominate and that’s how I’m coming every time.”
That much has been evident to Word of God coach Byron Williams who said Gardner’s approach has been methodical and infectious.
“His approach to the everyday grind to get better has been true dedication,” Williams said. “Great teammate, great energy, great leadership skills, leading by example and vocally. His potential is elite. He’s got God-given talent.”