With the season wrapped up, it's time to provide the bookend for the Player Previews we wrote to start the season. We'll take a look back at what we thought about each of the Marquette players back in November and see if we did a good job of prognostication. We continue our climb up the list of minutes played this year by moving on to sophomore big man Davante Gardner.
Hit the jump!
|2011 - Davante Gardner
What We Said:
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.
Perhaps more than anyone else, Davante Gardner's season exemplifies the fractured reality that was the 2011-12 season for Marquette. Big Smooth picked up right where he left off in 2010-11, grabbing rebounds and flipping the ball through the basket with the greatest of ease while coming off the bench to back up Chris Otule.
But it was when Otule went out for the season with a knee injury that we got to see how far Gardner had developed in the offseason. His trimmer body and improved defensive awareness was able to average 23.1 minutes a game in Marquette's next 14 games after Otule's injury while scoring 11.4 points and grabbing 6.3 rebounds, all improvements on the numbers he would end up averaging for the season. More importantly, Marquette reeled off 6 straight Big East wins at the end of that run.
Gardner would miss the next eight games as Marquette went 6-2 and transformed yet again into an even speedier version. When Ox returned against Georgetown in the regular season finale, it was clear that he shouldn't be playing extended minutes. He was forced into doing so because of foul trouble in that game, but his limp became more and more noticeable as his playing time continued. But he was dangerously effective after his return. He played 80 minutes in Marquette's last 5 games and the combined total of points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals was 70. He was contributing something to Marquette's play for nearly every single minute of action that he saw. Not bad for a dude that big playing on one and a half knees.
Best Game: It's gotta be against St. John's, right? 34 minutes, 8 for 13 from the field, 22 points, 15 rebounds, an assist and two blocks? How friggin' great is that?
Season Grade (1 is Worst Nightmare, 5 is Minimum Expectation, and 10 is Wildest Dream): Sadly, we were deprived of our best chances of seeing our wildest dreams fulfilled as Gardner's knee injury forced him to miss five Big East road games. But he surpassed the minimum expectation with ease as an average, and was well on his way to going WAY past it before the injury. I'm going to give him a 7, with a bonus point for effort to get back on the court after his injury to push the final score for the season to 8.