OKOLONA – When everybody is at his high school’s football games on Friday nights in the fall, D.J. Gardner shoots baskets by himself on the playground hoop behind Okolona High School.
Last night, however, he could take a night off from shooting and join his classmates at the Chieftains’ home football game against Smithville.
His hard work had finally paid off. He will be attending college on an athletic scholarship.
Come the week of Nov. 10, the Okolona High basketball senior standout will ink his national letter of intent with Mississippi State. As of now, the 17-year-old’s commitment to State is a verbal one until he signs his letter of intent during the NCAA’s early signing period from Nov. 10-Nov. 17.
“He’s developing into a young man that I know is going to be successful,” said the player’s mother, Angela Gardner.
The 6-foot-7, 205-pound shooting guard chose the Bulldogs over Auburn University and the University of Memphis. He made his announcement to join the MSU program on late Friday morning in front of his family, girlfriend, high school coach, AAU coach and area media members at Okolona High School.
“It’s close to home,” Gardner said about choosing to play for the Bulldogs. “My family can come see me play and my grandmother can come see me play.”
The 2009-10 Daily Journal First-Team All-Area selection averaged 24.2 points per game, 11.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists during his junior season.
The Okolona player said he thought he would receive more playing time at Mississippi State than at Memphis, and that the Bulldogs would have a better chance of winning more games than Auburn in the next couple of years.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal