Last month, Okolona. Miss., senior guard D.J. Gardner saw his high school career come to a surprising and disappointing end in the Class A North State tournament.
But since that time, the 2011 Mississippi State signee has received his share of good news.
And that good news continued on Monday when the 6-foot-6 and 205-pound shooting guard was named to the first-team Parade All-American squad.
"I just found out Monday afternoon and I didn't know anything about it until then," said Gardner. "My coach told me and when he told me, I kinda laughed and thought he was kidding. So it was shocking, amazing and funny at the same time. I was shocked because I was the only one from Mississippi on the first team and I figured (fellow MSU signee) Rodney Hood would have been on there. But it was a very big honor to be included on that list considering it is based on the best players in the country and I am from a small town in Mississippi."
Although his prep career has concluded, Gardner still has one high school event left and it happens this Friday. Earlier this month, Gardner was selected to participate in the National High School Slam Dunk and Three-Point Championships in Cypress, Texas, which is located near Houston. Noted as one of the top shooters in the Southeast region, Gardner will participate in the three-point contest.
"It was good to be selected and a big honor since no one else in Mississippi was selected," said Gardner, who averaged 32.3 points as a senior and shot 41 percent beyond the arc. "I have been staying in the gym as usual and just working on my shot like always. It should be a lot of fun and I believe I will love the experience."
Gardner posted some impressive numbers as a senior despite playing much of the year with an injured foot. But of late, Gardner said his foot has not caused him any problems.
"Everything is getting better and I am not sure if I will need surgery just yet," noted Gardoer. "I haven't been to the doctor lately and we are just seeing what happens with it. It hasn't been bothering me since I was able to rest it some once our season was finished."
As far as his next step in his basketball journey, Gardner is already focusing on specific improvements before he takes the floor at Mississippi State. The first step, said Gardner, is to get there as quick as possible and hit the weight room.
"I am not sure yet if it will be the first term or second term this summer," said Gardner. "I already have my grades so I just have to graduate and get started at Mississippi State as soon as I can. I am ready to get started early in the weight room and work on my defense and keep getting stronger. If I ever make it past Mississippi State I know I have to be good in all areas.
"The plan is for me to work at shooting guard so I know I have to be a good defender because there are a lot of quick guards in the SEC. And my main goal is to help Mississippi State reach the Final Four and bring home a national championship. That is the goal for all of us and it starts this summer."