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Virginia men's basketball team adds touted East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner
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Virginia men's basketball team adds touted East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner

For the second time in a week, the Virginia men’s basketball team has added a significant contributor through the transfer portal.

Jayden Gardner, who played three seasons at East Carolina and has two seasons of eligibility remaining, announced Monday that he’s joining Tony Bennett’s program.

“This has been a hard decision for me, but I just want to thank God and my family for helping me to come to a decision,” Gardner posted on Twitter. “It has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to play in the ACC and compete against the best of the best.”

Gardner joins UVa a few days after Armaan Franklin, a shooting guard transfer from Indiana, also committed to Virginia.

After narrowing down his list of potential transfer destinations to five schools late last week, Gardner spent a few days weighing his decision. He decided to join UVa over Arkansas, LSU, Miami and N.C. State.

Gardner offers experience and production. He’s one of just three men’s basketball players nationally to average 15 points and eight rebounds per game in each of the past three seasons. Gardner averaged 18 points and 8.7 rebounds on 50.1% shooting over his three seasons at ECU.

At 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, Gardner will likely play forward at UVa. He shot just six 3-pointers in 2020-21, as he does most of his damage inside the arc. Gardner has made 503 shots from inside the 3-point line in his career, compared to just nine made 3-pointers.

For a team that drew criticism last season for lacking a physical presence, Gardner is a welcome addition. Gardner ranked among the top three players in the AAC in rebounding in each of his three seasons. He ripped down 8.3 rebounds per game this season.

Gardner helps fill a role left open by the departure of Justin McKoy, who recently announced his decision to transfer from UVa to North Carolina. McKoy, like Gardner, is a high-energy player with the potential to play small or power forward. Gardner possesses more game experience, having played 81 games in his three-year career.

The addition of Franklin, who shot over 40% from 3-point range during the 2020-21 season, helps fill the void left by shooting guard Casey Morsell, who transferred from UVa to N.C. State within the last week.

Jabri Abdur-Rahim, who played just one season at UVa, announced Monday that he plans to transfer to Georgia. Abdur-Rahim was a consensus top-100 recruit coming out of high school, but played sparingly in his lone season in Charlottesville.

UVa has three additional scholarships available for the 2021-22 season.

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