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The verbal commitment of Okolona star guard David Gardner to Mississippi State is the definition of a win-win situation.
Mississippi State gets one of the best in-state prospects and Gardnerâs mother Angela gets the warm feeling of knowing her son will only be 45 minutes from home when he attends college.
âI will be at every game thatâs for sure,â Angela Gardner said. âDuring the interview process, I explained to everyone that heâs a mommaâs boy and Iâm perfectly comfortable with the coaching staff.â
David Gardner, who prefers to called D.J., said he made his decision Thursday and announced his choice at Okolona High School Friday morning. The The 6-foot-6 guard chose MSU over Memphis but also received scholarship offers from Ole Miss, UTEP and Auburn.
âYou don't know what it means that he'll be just 45 minutes down the road and I don't have to worry about him being comfortable,â Angela Gardner said.
Gardner, who is rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com, averaged 24.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals as a junior last season. He said his decision was highly swayed by the verbal commitment of Meridian guard Rodney Hood to Mississippi State earlier this week.
âI saw that Rodney Hood had committed and then I just decided to stay home and be close to my family,â D.J. Gardner said. âWhat this does is it allows my grandmother, uncle and girlfriend from here a chance to see me all the time and see me play.â
Gardner, who can play the wing positions at shooting guard and small forward in coach Rick Stansburyâs motion offense, is regarded as one of the best shooting prospects in the state.
âHe came up in our pee-wee program and you could see then that he could shoot it,â Okolona head coach Bobby Ford told Bulldawgjunction.com. âI think it came from playing against older guys growing up. They were bigger than him early on and he couldnât go inside when he was young. So he just stayed outside and shot it over them. He is just a natural shooter and loves the game.â
Local fans will get its first opportunity to see Gardner when he and his Chieftains squad travel to face West Oktibbeha on Jan. 21 for a game that could decide the Class A, Region 4 championship.
Gardner now becomes the third prospect to commit to Mississippi State, all in-state recruits, joining Hood and Callaway point guard Deville Smith. The trio will be allowed to sign a national letter-of-intent on Nov. 10, the first day of the fall signing period.
âState got in late on my recruiting after Ole Miss just stopped contacting me and it made a difference to me to have an in-state option for college,â Gardner said. âWhat weâre doing is putting together a great class.â
Since signing this week Hood has become the de-facto lead recruiter in this chain of in-state talent pledging their services to Mississippi State. After Hood committed to State, the ranking of the Bulldogsâ 2011 recruiting class jumped to No. 18 by ESPN.com and Hood has publicly said heâs working on trying to get Brandon High School product Tyler Adams to sign with the maroon and white. Adams was verbally committed to Duke but has reopened his recruitment to now just include MSU and Georgetown.
âWeâve been talking about it ever since the summer,â Hood told Bulldawgjunction.com âAll around the country people are teaming up so why not do it with somebody that you have experience playing with.â