April 15, 2002
TUCSON, Ariz. - University of Arizona men's basketball player Jason Gardner announced Monday that he would return to school for the 2002-03 season.
Gardner, a 5-foot-10, 181-pound junior guard from Indianapolis, Ind., averaged a team-leading 20.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, while logging 38.2 minutes per contest. In 34 games in 2001-02 Gardner shot 42.5 percent from the floor, 38.4 percent from three-point range, and his 106 three-point field goals ranked third on the UA single-season list. Gardner scored more points (692) this season than any other player in the Pac-10 and was the only league player to be ranked in the top 10 in scoring average, assists and steals.
"After doing a lot of research and talking with people that I trust, I think it's best for me to return (to Arizona) for my senior season," said Gardner. "Playing in the NBA is still a dream of mine, but I really enjoy being in college and playing with my teammates. A year from now, I'll have my degree in education and another year of experience."
Gardner, who ranks in the top 10 in 10 different UA career statistical categories, was named to three All-America teams in 2001-02. He was a third team selection by the Associated Press and a second team pick by cnnsi.com and Basketball America. A starter in 103 of 104 career games played, Gardner has scored 1,512 points, knocked down 252 three-point field goals, passed out 464 assists and collected 164 steals. He and the Wildcats have amassed a 79-25 (.760) record over the past three seasons.
"I can't think of a better way of getting ready for a career on the next level than to spend another year playing for Coach Olson," said Gardner. "He's helped put a lot of guys into the NBA and I hope to be his next top-five pick. After four great years here at Arizona, I know I'll be ready to take that next step ."
As a sophomore, Gardner withdrew his name from consideration for the 2001 NBA Draft. Gardner, who did not sign with an agent last season, had kept his options open regarding his basketball future following a very successful 2001-02 campaign.
"It's not an unexpected decision, but we are glad that he's decided to return," said Olson. "Jason has done a good job of researching his draft prospects and we think that he's made a wise decision."
Gardner's return means that the Wildcats will return all five starters and 13 letterwinners from the 2001-02 club that went 24-10 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's West Regional Semifinals. All told, Arizona will return 100 percent of the rebounds and 99.9 percent of the points scored and minutes played for the 2002-03 campaign.