Virginia lands ECU transfer Jayden Gardner
Virginia basketball needed to get tougher. Jayden Gardner will make Virginia tougher.
Gardner announced on Twitter Monday that he is transferring to UVA, where he will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Gardner averaged 18.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game at East Carolina in 2020-2021, shooting 47.9 percent from the floor, and getting to the line 7.0 times per game, which stands out considering that Virginia averaged 11.5 per game as a team in 2020-2021.
The 6’8”, 235-pound junior, in three seasons at ECU, has averaged 18.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, showing 50.1 percent from the field and getting to the line 7.1 times a game – meaning, he has been a consistent producer.
And he’s a force in the post – rating “excellent” in Synergy Sports’ rendering of offensive production, scoring 1.013 points per possession on post-ups, which accounted for 21.4 percent of his possessions last season.
Gardner also rated “very good” in transition possessions, scoring 1.196 PPP, and was “good” on offensive rebounds (1.129 PPP).
One knock on the 2020-2021 ‘Hoos was that they lacked toughness, with the team’s best offensive players – 7’1” Jay Huff, 6’9” Trey Murphy III and 6’8” Sam Hauser – being perimeter-first guys.
Gardner is laser-focused on working the paint – more than two-thirds of his shots (67.3 percent) were post-ups or shots at the rim in 2020-2021, and he attempted just six threes all season.
Seems he may also be a guy to have to watch on pick-and-pops – Synergy rates him “good” on spot-up jumpers, on which he shot 50 percent (26-of-52) last season, and overall he shot a respectable 41.5 percent on two-point jumpers, in the range of what Huff did this past season (42.2 percent).
Gardner, who averaged 35.1 minutes per game in 2020-2021, would figure to slot as the starter at the four for Tony Bennett, with 7’0” redshirt sophomore Francisco Caffaro and 6’11” redshirt freshman Kadin Shedrick splitting minutes at the five.
Bennett has at least one more scholarship open, but it looks that the holes left from the departures of Huff, Hauser and Tomas Woldetensae (graduation) and Justin McKoy, Casey Morsell and Jabri Abdur-Rahim (transfer portal) have been filled.
The rotation for 2021-2022 at the moment would project to include Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, Indiana transfer Armaan Franklin, Kody Stattmann, Casey McCorkle and incoming recruit Taine Murray in the backcourt, with Gardner and Caffaro/Shedrick in the post.
There is still one question mark – the status of Murphy, who is getting some NBA mock draft love, and may very well decide to at least test the Association waters.
Assuming Murphy returns, he would see time at three and stretch four, allowing Gardner to move to five in a lineup that – editorial comment here – is already getting me to drool at how good it would be.
Story by Chris Graham