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How is Jayden Gardner transitioning to playing down low in the ACC?

jayden gardner keve aluma
Jayden Gardner is challenged at the rim by Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma. Photo by Dan Grogan.

When Virginia landed Jayden Gardner out of the transfer portal in the spring, the thinking was that the 6’6”, 246-pounder would be a bruiser down low.

What Gardner actually is: a mid-range jump shooter.

According to, more than half of Gardner’s field-goal attempts this season – 52.6 percent – are two-point jumpers.

That’s by far the highest proportion among the rotation guys.

And in ACC play, it’s more pronounced – 68.5 percent.

In Virginia’s 10 ACC games to date, Gardner is shooting a more than respectable 50 percent on his jumpers, but the raw numbers – 38-of-76 – are eye-popping for a big.

It also has to jump out at you that Gardner has attempted just 29 shots at the rim in ACC play, though it’s probably for good reason – he’s only made 11 of his layups or dunks in conference (37.9 percent).

His lack of success down low is a reason why he’s only attempted 31 free throws in conference games, and 10 of those were in the second Clemson game.

Even with that outlier, that’s 3.1 attempts per game.

Last season at ECU, Gardner had averaged 7.0 free throw attempts per game.

But last year, 45.1 percent of his shot attempts were at the rim, and he shot 55.2 percent on those shots.

His season numbers this year at Virginia look similar – 43.2 percent of his shots are at the rim, and he’s 57.6 percent on rim shots.

That was a lot of feasting on overmatched non-conference foes – for example, he was 12-of-13 at the rim in the win over Farleigh Dickinson.

The concern coming into the season was how Gardner would adjust to night in, night out play against bigger fours in the ACC.

We have our answer.

Story by Chris Graham

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