Beyond the Sidelines: Milestone motivation

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It was only a couple of years ago when I started hearing about this guy called “Ian Boyd” from Apex High School. At the time, Ian was just gearing up to surpass the 2,000 career points milestone. I remember reading on Twitter when he actually crossed it. Everyone talked about how big of a deal it was and how rare it was to score over 2,000 points in one high school career. I thought to myself, “Man. One day.”

Flash forward to 2018, I’ve now earned two separate trophy basketballs. One for crossing the 1,000 career point threshold last season and the other for passing the 2,000-point and 1,000-rebound marks this season. As everyone has told me, reaching the 2,000/1,000 mark is something extremely special. While that may be the case, it’s a little hard for me at this very moment to fully grasp what that kind of means in the context of 919 hoops.

But for now, I’m going to shoutout some of the people who have helped me get here.

First things first, I have to thank my father and savior Jesus Christ. I couldn’t do any of this without his grace.

My family has always supported me along the way. My dad saw something special in me and has been pushing me since the 6th grade. He would always say, “I see something special in you but you have to maximize your potential. I believe you can and you’re gonna make it.”Heritage High School logoGardner makes history, leads Heritage past Wakefield

I can’t begin to express my gratitude for every coach who has helped me along the way, from AAU to high school. Coach Aaron really was one of the first coaches who saw something different in me and brought me along with his AAU team and it took off from there. Thanks to his efforts, I was noticed and reached out to by one of the top AAU programs in the state in Team Loaded. I will never take for granted the experience I gained from playing top competition on the circuit or the memories I formed with my teammates over many summers. Coach Wall from Team Loaded was well aware of the things I could do on the court and always pushed me to hone those talents. Being able to show what I can do in front of so many college coaches was truly a blessing.

On the high school side, it’s hard to start with anyone else other than Coach Kennedy. Even though he had stepped down as the boys coach in order to coach the girls, he stayed on with us as an assistant. From day one it was always “Defense” with Coach K. He really put it in my head that you’re not going to play at the next level if you can’t guard nobody. I took that to heart and challenged myself to work on it. Being a freshman it was challenging but I got better at it and I thank him for it.Boys Basketball: Seventy-First vs. Heritage (Feb. 25, 2017)Our lens on Jayden Gardner

Next, Coach Brill. Man. Him, Jarren [McAllister], and I all started at the same time – in the summer of 2014. It was his first year as the varsity coach and our first year as high schoolers in general. Coach Brill has always been a good coach everywhere he’s been and he brought his wisdom to Heritage at the right time. He will easily go down as one of the best coaches here in the county and state, but will also be a Heritage legend with all the great seasons we’ve had and more to come when I’m gone. He’s a “perfect your craft and master it” type guy, and that’s really helped me my four years in high school with my development. He’s always big on putting in the time and you’ll get results. I think the same way, so I’ve always loved having Coach Brill as a head coach, and I know he’s got my back like I got his on and off the court.

Funny story my first actual game as a Husky was over the summer at a team camp. I didn’t play at all –only about two minutes in the second half (I still managed to get four points and like three rebounds FYI). You don’t forget memories like that cause it humbles you and changes your life. When I got pulled I was mad about my playing time so I did something about it and got in the gym. At our next team camp over the summer, I was given the opportunity to play earlier in the game and I killed it. From there on, I’ve started every game in all of my four years at Heritage. So, I thank Coach Brill for giving me the opportunity and believing in me, even as a freshman. He’s become a real cool figure in my life that I can talk to about anything. I also need to thank some people behind the scenes like Coach Jordan and Coach Joel. Coach Jordan was with the team my freshman year and now in my senior year. he also saw what I could become. He told me what I needed to do if I wanted to be a good division one player and he still guides me to this day, and I thank him. Joel has been with me since sophomore year. I can’t even count the amount of times he and I have gotten in the gym and worked on my game. The amount is endless. He really installed good habits in me to work hard and put in the time. Any time you need Joel to come help you rebound, play defense, work on moves or get advice, he’s always willing and able and I thank him.

Boys Basketball: Wakefield vs Heritage (Jan. 9, 2018)

I would also like to thank Heritage High School for being my home for these past years. The teachers here are great. I really thank everyone who has taught me, helped me grow as a young man and help me grow intellectually. All the classmates I’ve had class with and all the laughs and hard work we put in there, I thank y’all, you’ve made my high school experience very special. Heritage is a special place, you’ll be lucky to go here and experience what I’ve experienced because I’ve loved it here and I’ll miss it when I’m gone.

Last but not least, my teammates. I have had a bunch of teammates since my freshman year and they’ve helped me a lot by becoming tougher, communicating, understanding the game, having a good time and becoming brothers. From the guys who were before me like Thayer, Colton, and Kordell, to the guys who will come after me like Red, Tre and Lucas, I love all of you. I appreciate all of my teammates and everyone who has played with me and helped me become a better player, and more importantly a better friend.

I’ve gotta give a special shoutout to SILKY SMOOTH – aka Jarren. Being able to have someone that went through what I went through as a freshman and to see it evolve now is special. We’ve been a dynamic duo for four years now and I’ll miss it when we’re done. It’s not everyday you can play with an ACC player on the court and in practice. His unique skill set has made me become a better player by challenging me and teaching me new things. It’s going to be weird not having him on my team next year. I’m going to miss him next year and I know he’s gonna kill it at Virginia Tech.

I have both of those trophy balls on display in my room. Sometimes I’ll just look up at them and they make me smile. I love thinking about how far I’ve come and the entire journey that I’ve been on. It’s a special feeling.

I’ve thought about it a lot. Am I now some kind of a icon of the area for reaching the heights I’ve reached – like Ian Boyd? Its possible. But that’s not for me to decide. At the very least, the things I’ve done over my four years at Heritage can’t be taken away from me.

I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but I’m also mindful of what I have not. I view achievements as two separate entities. One, it’s a way to celebrate how far you’ve come and all of the hard work you put in to get there. Second, I like to turn them into a source of motivation. Humans are greedy by nature, and I constantly want to keep reaching new heights. I’ve achieved everything I’ve wanted to achieve in my high school career with the exception of that most elusive prize – a state championship.’s “Beyond the Sidelines” provides local student-athletes and coaches a platform to tell stories in their own words.

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