Mississippi State signee D.J. Gardner, a 6-foot-7 guard/forward from Okolona, has been named first team Parade All-American, it was announced today.
Gardner averaged 32.0 points and 10.3 rebounds per game last season for the Chieftains, while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range, and he's a leading candidate for the Daily Journal Player of the Year honor.
Another Mississippian, Cleveland East Side's Johnny O'Bryant (LSU signee), was named to the fourth team. He and another MSU signee, Rodney Hood, are considered by most as the two best players in the state, although Gardner is certainly top five. So it's an interesting pick. Hood is not on the 40-man Parade team (click image at left to view).
Parade has been selecting All-Americans for 55 years, longer than any publication (according to the press release), and it's considered a prestigious honor, although perhaps not as much as it was before high school sports received the amount of national attention and coverage as it does now.
Nevertheless, this is a big deal for not only Gardner, but for Okolona and the Northeast Mississippi area. According to a list sent to me by the helpful folks at Parade, the only other player from the area selected to the team was Starkville's Travis Outlaw in 2003 – he made the second team. So Gardner is part of a very exclusive club. I'll try to chat with him later.