INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Jason Gardner is returning to his roots.
Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1999 at North Central high is the guy who hopes to turn things around for the struggling Jaguars, and he’s already hit the ground running.
“I think being a head coach for the first time in a city where you grew up is unbelievable, I think it’s amazing, and I’[m just thankful for it,"said Gardner at his introductory news conference Wednesday morning.
The 33-year-old spent just three years as a major college assistant after finishing his playing career in Europe on the heels of his great success at Arizona. His mantra? Outwork the other guy, and do it with local players.
"I think there's a lot of kids here that are going other places. I want to come back here and keep these kids home. I think that all over Indiana is amazing, the best thing about it is they get taught basketball and a skill set."
Gardner says local players will be the lifeblood of his program, and he should get plenty of time to build a fan base that's fallen off since the energetic Ron Hunter left for Georgia State.
"I want to get the fans and the crowd, I want it to be a tough place to play, and so I know it's going to be tough, I know there's going to be times where it's definitely hard but I think that's in any job you take, so I'm up for the challenge, I'm excited about it and I'm ready to go."
IUPUI wanted a recognizable face to reboot the program, heading to a refurbished Coliseum on the State Fairgrounds. They got one, lets see if it pays dividends.