JDLHS League MVP: Jayden Gardner
The J.D. Lewis Youth Summer League came to an end this past Sunday as over 90 kids competed for 6 straight weekends to obtain not only the championship, but bragging rights. Throughout the entire league, each team played 2 games each Sunday, battling it out to give their team a chance at winning it all. While most of the players gave it everything they had, one stood out above the rest. Earning the JDLHS Summer MVP, Jayden Gardner showed that he was the best all around player game after game.
Standing at 6’6, the C/O 2018 Heritage High School (Wake Forest, NC)/Team Loaded Forward was easily the most dominant player in the league. If you’ve been following him at all during this AAU season, this shouldn’t come as a surprise [Checkout Big Shots w/ WCBA]. Gardner possesses something that many players do not have, especially at this level. To state it simply, it’s work ethic. He makes sure that he puts every single ounce of energy and effort into every play on both ends of the floor, specifically on the boards. Words really do not do him justice when it comes to describing how hard he plays. Gardner goes after every loose ball, usually outworking his man and coming out on top. Although out working his competitor is his main skill set, he also has good hands, as he often showed his ability to catch wild passes or snatch rebounds that seemed out of reach. As a result of him hustling every play, Gardner consistently finds himself being the recipient of offensive rebounds and easy putbacks. He’s the type of player that you don’t need to run plays for and he still manages to have a huge effect on the game. Official rebounding stats were not kept, however, it is without question that Gardner averaged a high double-double throughout the JDLHS Summer League.
The intangibles that Gardner has embedded in his game speak volumes. While he uses his height and wingspan to his advantage, as you watch him play he makes you feel like he could do these same things even if he wasn’t 6’6. Being tall in the game of basketball has its advantages, but as you continue to play at higher levels it becomes less of an advantage. Having the skill set to not solely rely on his height will put Gardner in a category of his own making himself that much more marketable. Coaches at the next level will be (if not already) thoroughly impressed with his hard work. Plus he’s only a sophomore, so there’s a possibility that he still has time to grow.
While there is no doubt in Gardner’s ability to be effective through his hard work, there are some parts of his game that he will need polish as he continues to grow as a player. He already has really good hands and a soft touch around the rim, once he implements solid footwork, he’ll be unstoppable in the low post. Another thing he’ll need to work on is establishing his presence in the low post. There are moments where he allows his man to walk him away from the box instead of getting low and posting up to maintain position. Once he’s able to do that, Gardner will find himself using less energy to get easier buckets around the rim.
Over all, Gardner is a double-double machine. He gives maximum effort on both ends of the floor, especially in the rebounding department. He’s already picking up high-major interest which is fully expected to turn into offers. If you haven’t already, now is the time to remember the name.