Oklahoma State's Gardner earning playing time, gaining confidence
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Saturday, December 22, 2012
12/22/12 at 4:17 AM
STILLWATER - Four times in the past two games, Oklahoma State guard Kirby Gardner has breezed past defenders for an easy layup.
The difference in Gardner now and Gardner at the start of the season is his recent 10-pound weight loss.
"That's something we challenged him with, and he's done a great job getting in great shape," coach Travis Ford said. "He's so much faster, and he seems so much quicker.
"He's finishing around the basket, which is something we wanted to see him do."
A transfer from San Bernardino Valley (Calif.) College, the 6-foot-2 Gardner arrived in Stillwater in August at 206 pounds. After spending some time after practice on the StairMaster and elliptical machines in addition to cutting back on fast food, he dropped the extra weight in less than three weeks.
"It was surprising at first," Gardner said. "I didn't know until I came in the next day because I don't have a scale at home. I came in to weigh myself and that's when I figured out I lost like four pounds in one day."
Gardner feels lighter on the court and has gained confidence as a result. He contributed a career-high seven points in Wednesday's win against UT Arlington and in the past two games has gotten more playing time, up to 16-18 minutes off the bench.
"Even the last two days (in practice), he's been the best guy on our team at handling the press," Ford said Sunday. "We mentioned after practice yesterday in our staff meeting that Kirby Gardner needs to start playing more, especially against teams that like to press.
"It allows Marcus (Smart) to get off the ball a little bit. I like the way Kirby is playing."
Because of summer school, Gardner didn't travel with OSU on its preseason trip to Spain, where the Cowboys gained some valuable chemistry and where the newcomers learned the system. Upon the team's return, Gardner had to play catch-up.
"Kirby had a big learning curve because we didn't slow down for him," Ford said. "We just kind of kept going and he had to learn on the fly.
"Typical of any junior-college player, it always takes them longer, but even more in our case because we already had a lot of things in."
Gardner, who grew up in California, also had to adjust to being away from home.
"I'm quiet, so it's hard to make as many friends as some other people who are more outgoing," he said. "But I'm getting along well with everybody. It's coming along pretty good."
While Gardner has been viewed as a backup point guard to Smart, the pair played several minutes together Wednesday. The MVP of his conference a year ago, Gardner has embraced his role as a reserve but hopes to see his value increase.
"I feel like I can do more, actually," Gardner said. "That's going to be my goal - to contribute as much as possible and be the energy guy off the bench."
With the way he's played of late, Gardner has earned trust from his head coach as the nonconference schedule winds down and Big 12 play approaches.
"I wouldn't have said that three weeks ago," Ford said. "We were still wondering, 'Oh, can he do it? Is he going to be able to give us what we need?'
"Right now, I've got great confidence in him."
Tennessee Tech at No. 24 Oklahoma State
Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater
Radio: KFAQ am1170
Tennessee Tech (6-5)
*assists per game
Original Print Headline: OSU's Gardner earning playing time, trust
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Oklahoma State guard Kirby Gardner drives by South Florida defender Martino Brock in the Cowboys' 61-49 Dec. 5 win. KT KING/for the Tulsa World