D.J. Gardner has seen talent go to waste. He’s not going to let that happen to himself.
The Okolona standout took a big step in his basketball career Wednesday, signing a national letter of intent to play for Mississippi State. He was one of three signees for the Bulldogs on the first day of the early signing period, joining top in-state prospect Rodney Hood of Meridian and point guard Deville Smith of Jackson Callaway.
Gardner, a 6-foot-7, 205-pound shooting guard, committed to MSU a couple of weeks ago. He’s eager to show people what he can make of himself.
“People that go to the school here had a lot of talent, (but) they either dropped out or had kids or whatever, had bad grades or whatever,” Gardner said. “It’s no pressure, though. Because I know where I came from, and I’ve got my city on my back. I represent for Okolona.”
Gardner said it’s his family, particularly his uncle, Reggie Gunn, that have kept him focused. Gunn is a former ICC standout who played college basketball at Southwest Oklahoma.
“My uncle stayed on me about my attitude and all that, staying focused to the game,” Gardner said. “Staying focused, it’s something I wanted to do anyway. I wanted to play ball, go pro. I want to go pro. You’ve got to stay focused on what you want to do.”
Gardner, who averaged 24.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game last season, picked MSU over Auburn and Memphis.
Hood also committed last month. A 6-7, 180-pound guard/forward, he’s widely considered the best prospect in Mississippi. He averaged 21.1 points per game as a junior for Meridian and is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 7 small forward in the country and No. 21 player overall.
Smith (5-11, 165) committed in the spring. Last season, he averaged 22 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds per game and led the Chargers to the Class 5A state championship.
Rebels sign four
Ole Miss signed all four players it was expecting to sign on Wednesday.
Three of them are Mississippians: McComb shooting guard Ladarius White, Gautier power forward Aaron Jones and Jackson point guard Jarvis Summers.
The Rebels also added Searcy Ark., wing player Jamal Jones (6-8, 180), who told Scout.com that Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy laid out a plan for him that included either extensive playing time or a redshirt season as a true freshman.
White (6-4, 220), a three-star prospect, averaged 23.7 points and 8.8 rebounds last year. He committed to Ole Miss last summer and also was recruited by MSU and Baylor.
Jones (6-8, 200) began to turn heads at a camp last summer and was also recruited by MSU, Baylor, UTEP, Memphis and Florida. He averaged 19.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, five assists and four blocks as a junior.
Summers (6-3, 185) was not a verbal commit but was considered an Ole Miss lean. He averaged 11.2 points and six assists as a junior and was also recruited by Oklahoma State.
Other local signings
– Brandon Woodruff, Wheeler,
signed with Mississippi State.
– Chase Reeves, Hamilton,
signed with Ole Miss.
– Will Cox, Amory, signed with
– John Gatlin, Tupelo, signed
with Ole Miss.
– Deonta Herman, Corinth,
signed with Jackson State.
– Swayze Hollenhead, East Webster,
signed with Mississippi State.
– John Servati, Tupelo, signed
Brad Locke and Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal