2011-12 Player Preview: #54 Davante Gardner

CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 18: Davante Gardner #54 of the Marquette Golden Eagles drives to the basket agaisnt Kenny Frease #32 of the Xavier Musketeers during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 18, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

In the land of the all-guard offense, the offensively skilled big man is king.  Davante Gardner arrived at Marquette as a relatively under the radar guy with a big body.  Around these parts, that's enough to pique everyone's interest and expectations.  

After pouring in 17 in the 2010-2011 season opener and sparking MU to a comeback win over Bucknell in the second game, the fanbase was clamoring for more and assigning a plethora of nicknames:  Ox, The Artist, etc.  Solid offensive efforts against Duke, Wisconsin and Green Bay continued the excitement. 

Run was much more difficult to come by once Big East play rolled around and Chris Otule more firmly established himself at the 5 spot.  Davante didn't log double digit minutes until the 12th Big East game at Georgetown.  He took the most of his opportunity and scored 12 points on 4-6 shooting and 4-5 from the line before fouling out. 

Learn more about Davante Gardner after the jump.

Davante took on a bigger role as the season wrapped up, averaging 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in the final 7 games.  This includes his impressive 16 point performance against North Carolina.  Davante averaged a very respectable 9 minutes, 4.4 points and 2.2 rebounds a game on the season.

Gardner's style of play takes full advantage of his size to move defenders around.  The easy comparison is DeJuan Blair, though big Number 54 has a ways to go to reach that level.  Gardner isn't blessed with great leaping ability, but he seems to have a nose for the game that puts him in excellent position to grab rebounds.  He has nifty footwork and offensive moves that become quite deadly when combined with his shooting touch.  Speaking of shooting touch, DG shot 58% from the field and a cool 75% from the line last year.

Davante loves his offensive game, which brings up two problems.  First, he can be a bit of a black hole on offense.  Secondly, his defensive game needs to make significant strides to earn more minutes.  Finally, all signs point to improved conditioning, which should help his all-around game.

Minimum Expectations:

Davante puts in a serviceable 15 minutes a game and averages 7 points and 4 rebounds a contest.  Additionally, he can stay on the floor for extended periods of time due to improved conditioning.  Gardner will likely never be a defensive dynamo, but improved defensive recognition limits the drop-off when Otule is taking a breather.

In My Wildest Dreams:

I want to watch several road games this year where the home crowd is reacting with anger as this short(ish), pudgy dude is executing McHale-esque up-and-under moves and scoring at will against bigger, more athletic big men.  All the better if he gets away with a travelling violation or five while performing said moves.  I also want to hear Fran Fraschilla gush (and diagram) how Gardner uses his ample derriere to move around defenders.  In essence, I want Davante to annoy opposing fans as much as DeJuan Blair annoyed me for years.

In My Worst Nightmare:

Davante struggles on the defensive end and loses Buzz's trust.  That will lead to limited minutes, frustration and, potentially, a transfer.  Please note that I highly doubt this will happen.  Davante is due for a nice year.

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