Virginia Basketball Notes: Jayden Gardner Makes It Official

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Jayden Gardner has signed grant-in-aid papers with the University of Virginia. ~ Photo credit: Rob Goldberg of East Carolina Athletics

Former East Carolina star Jayden Gardner has signed a grant-in-aid with the University of Virginia men’s basketball program, following through on the commitment he gave the Cavaliers on April 12. UVA head coach Tony Bennett announced the signing in an official press release.

“We are excited to add Jayden to the Virginia basketball family,” Bennett said. “The experience, leadership and production he brings to our program is invaluable, and we look forward to having him join our program.”

Gardner started 79 of 81 games in three seasons with the Pirates, averaging 18 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. The 6’7”, 235-pound forward’s lowest production came his freshman campaign, when he averaged 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game on his way to being a unanimous selection to the AAC All-Freshman Team.

Gardner’s consistency and productivity made him a highly coveted transfer target. Arkansas, LSU, Miami, NC State, and Virginia made the final cut before the Wake Forest (N.C.) native announced his pledge to UVA and Coach Bennett, who was one of the first coaches to express interest.

“I’m excited about joining the University of Virginia,” Gardner said in UVA’s press release. “It’s a dream come true to be able to play in the ACC under one of best coaches in the world. I can’t wait to get to work as soon as I touch down on Grounds and get to connect with all the fans and members of Virginia. Thank you God for the opportunity and I’m not going to take it for granted.”

Gardner helps fill Virginia’s major need at the 4 next season. Considered one of the top committed transfers regardless of position, the future Cavalier is rated by CBS Sports as the No. 8 overall committed transfer this offseason.

Gardner and former Indiana shooting guard Armaan Franklin are the first two transfers to sign with Virginia this spring, and both were top targets of Coach Bennett and company. Franklin, a 6’4” guard who played two seasons in Bloomington before transferring out, is rated the #39 committed transfer by CBS Sports.

The Latest Offseason News

A pair of high school seniors who UVA had contacted are off the board, with combo forward David Joplin committing to Marquette and wing Brian Waddell choosing Purdue. Neither was a surprise. Joplin was a Texas signee who followed Shaka Smart to Marquette. Waddell pledged to Purdue, where his dad played college basketball alongside current Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter.

Transfers UVA reportedly had at least some contact with have come off the board in recent weeks too. They include forward Tari Eason (Cincinnati -> LSU), guard Jalen Pickett (Siena -> Penn State) and guard Seth Lundy (returning to Penn State). Here is a full rundown of the transfers UVA expressed some level of interest in but ultimately committed elsewhere or returned to school.

GUARDS

– Phlandrous Fleming, Charleston Southern Committed to Florida
– Jordan Geronimo, Indiana Returned to Indiana
– Kellan Grady, Davidson Signed with Kentucky
– Myreon Jones, Penn State Committed to Florida
– Tyler Kolek, George Mason Committed to Marquette
– Noah Locke, Florida Committed to Louisville
– Seth Lundy, Penn State Returned to Penn State
– Damari Monsanto, East Tennessee State Committed to Wake Forest
– Jalen Pickett, Sienna Committed to Penn State
– Justin Powell, Auburn Committed to Tennessee

POSTS (COMBO FORWARDS & CENTERS)

– Tari Eason, Cincinnati Committed to LSU
– CJ Felder, Boston College Committed to Florida
– Tanner Groves, Eastern Washington Committed to Oklahoma
– Noah Gurley, Furman Committed to Alabama
– Walker Kessler, North Carolina Committed to Auburn
– Trey Wade, Wichita State Committed to Nevada

Guard Izaiah Brockington received interest from UVA when he first entered the transfer portal. The 6’4” guard returned to Penn State but in recent days reentered the portal. According to Jon Rothstein, UVA is not one of the interested schools as of now.

Iowa sharpshooting guard CJ Fredrick and Georgia Highlands College forward Langston Wilson are two players Virginia has contacted. Kentucky is the consensus favorite for the 6’3” Fredrick, who spent three years at Iowa – one redshirt, two playing – before deciding to transfer this spring.

The athletic 6’9” Wilson seemingly teased an impending decision on Twitter this past Sunday with Texas Tech perhaps the favorite, but he did not announce any decision. The Pennsylvania native played two seasons for Georgia Highlands College. According to the GHC athletics site, he played in 19 games in 2020-21, averaging 9.6 points per game while making 58.3% of his field goals.

Virginia still has an immediate need for depth and athleticism in the frontcourt next season. The springy Wilson would certainly be a fit in those areas while also being a developmental prospect, but at this point I believe he is likely headed elsewhere.

It has been a week since Richmond (VA) native Henry Coleman III announced he was leaving Duke after one season, The 6’7” forward would be a fit at Virginia in my opinion, but how strong UVA’s interest is – and vice versa – is unclear at this point. Pittsburgh Sports Now reports that Pitt, VCU and Virginia Tech are highly interested. At least one recruiting analyst predicted VCU as the destination immediately after Coleman III entered the portal.

Cavalier Recruit Murray A Guest On Podcast

As of now, Virginia has one incoming first year in guard Taine Murray, a 6’5” native of New Zealand. The 4-star prospect appeared on the Showtime Balling Podcast with Jordan Pomana this week.

The feature interview, which you can listen to by clicking here, lasts almost an hour. The topics range from Taine’s father’s background as a rugby player to his development into a top basketball recruit to UVA. If you primarily want to tune in for Virginia-related comments, he discusses the Hoos – from choosing the right school to Jack Salt to Tony Bennett – from the 35:45 mark through the 39:40 mark.

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