HoopsHype.com Interviews

Jason Gardner: "Arenas tells me to keep my head up"
by Jorge Sierra / January 8, 2004 - Photo: Euroleague Pictures

- Attended the North Central HS in Indianapolis, Indiana.
- Played college ball at Arizona from 1999 to 2003.
- Consensus National Freshman of the Year in 2000.
- Named to the All-America 3rd Team in 2002.
- Named to the All-America 2nd Team in 2003.
- Not drafted by any NBA team.
- Signed with Krka Novo Mesto (Slovenia) in 2003-04.
- Moved to Telindus Oostende (Belgium) in December 2003.

You started the season in Slovenia. What went wrong there?

Jason Gardner: It was a tough situation there. There were a lot of changes. Changes of players, coaches... I didn't even know what was going on there, to tell you the truth. Fortunately, I'm in a better place now.

Is it a much better situation for you in Belgium?

JG: Definitely. Everybody is very professional here -- management, coaches, players... Everything has been good here so far.

But the competition there isn't very good, right?

JG: No, no. I think it's pretty good. I've played in only two games and we've faced good teams. Practices are very competitive with my team, too.

What's the hardest part of playing overseas for you?

JG: You miss your family. You know, there is a six-hour difference. It's not easy to stay in touch. You have to make international calls. Picking up the phone and calling your family, it's really expensive. And you can't drive or catch a plane to see them. That's tough. That's the hardest part in this situation.

When did you start thinking about the possibility of going to Europe?

JG: In August. After the draft and playing a little bit in the summer league, I thought that the next option was going overseas.

You were not drafted last June. Did you expect that to happen?

JG: Not at all. But it happened and you can't do anything about it. The only thing you can do is keep working hard and not lose perspective.

How did you take it? Was it frustrating?

JG: Yeah, a little bit. But you have to understand the NBA is a dream for everybody. It's a dream for everybody, but not everybody can't get there. In that situation, you just have to move on, keep your head over your shoulders and think that an opportunity will come if you work hard.

Do you think the main reason for not being drafted was your size?

JG: It's possible. But being small doesn't mean you can't play. You just have to play a little different. You have to shoot quicker. And in defense, you have to do things a little different. Besides, I'm 5-foot-10 and in the NBA there are a lot of point guard that are just six feet tall, so it's not that big of a difference.

There are guys in the NBA like Earl Boykins that didn't get drafted and proved they can play in the league. Do you think the people in the NBA -- scouts, GMs --- pay too much attention to height when it comes to drafting point guards?

JG: I think there are a lot of other things you have to take in consideration in a point guard. You need point guards that are floor generals, that can see the floor, make good decisions, make the right calls... Being a point guard is about all those things.

How's that you were not in training camp with any NBA team in October?

JG: I've had already made the decision to come over here by the time.

In college, you were close with Gilbert Arenas. Do you stay in touch with him?

JG: Yeah.

Very often?

JG: We speak from time to time.

What do you talk about?

JG: He tells me that I have to keep my head up. That maybe there will be an opportunity for me next year. He tells me that there a few things you have to learn in the pro game and when you pick up all those things, it's a lot easier.

Did you expect Arenas to have such a good NBA career?

JG: Yeah, definitely. He is very talented. He didn't enter the league in the best situation. You know, he was selected in the second round. And now he is a star in the NBA. So what else can you say?

What are your plans for next season? Will you stay in Europe for another year or would you like to give the NBA a try and be in training camp with some team?

JG: I don't know. Right now, I'm more concentrated on this season and I don't think much about that. Of course, everybody would like to play in the NBA. But to give the NBA a try, you have to go and play in the summer leagues, and then training camp... You have to make a decision between going through all that or Europe. It's kind of a hard decision to make.

Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com

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