Gardner invited to World University Games training camp

Davante Gardner was one of 29 invitees to the camp. (USA Today)

Davante Gardner was one of 29 invitees to the camp. (USA Today)

Marquette senior Davante Gardner should win a handful of awards next April after his final season with the Golden Eagles is complete. But he was given his first honor Monday morning when he was one of 29 collegiate players invited to try out for the USA Men’s World University Games Team.

The tryouts will take place June 24-30 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., finalists will be announced on June 26, and the 12-team roster will be finalized prior to the team’s July 1 departure to Russia. The World University Games (WUGs) is scheduled to be played July 7-16 in Kazan, Russia.

“We are extremely happy for Davante and the opportunity to showcase his skills at the international level,” Buzz Williams said in a press release. “It’s really as testament to his hard work and development that he has emerged as one of the top players in his age group and the entire experience will be beneficial to his continued improvement.”

Marquette assistant Jamie McNeilly is an assistant for the Canadian National Team.

Gardner’s addition to the training camp is not unwarranted–the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year averaged 11.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in just 21.5 minutes per game for the Elite Eight-bound Golden Eagles last season–but likely helping his cause was Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, the chair of the USA Men’s Junior National Team Committee who was in charge of putting together the list of 29 athletes.

“The committee has assembled one of the strongest World University Games training camp rosters USA Basketball has ever had,” Boeheim said in the USA Basketball press release. “It includes some of the top players in college basketball, several of whom have international experience. Selecting the players for the final roster is going to be a real challenge.”

Gardner averaged 20.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in two games against Boeheim’s Orange last season, including a 26-point outing in February that propelled Marquette to a 74-71 win at the Bradley Center. Gardner posted 14 points in the Golden Eagles’ Elite Eight loss to the Orange one month later.

The team will be led by Davidson head coach Bob McKillop, another familiar face to Gardner, who scored nine points in 17 minutes against McKillop’s Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Assistants include Michigan’s John Beilein and South Carolina’s Frank Martin, while training camp coaches include Colorado’s Tad Boyle, Grace College’s Jim Kessler and Elon’s Matt Matheny.

Gardner is the second Marquette player to be invited to try out for the team. In 2009, Lazar Hayward made the team before his senior season, averaging 9.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in seven games to help the Americans to a third-place finish. That team was headed by Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan, and UWM’s Rob Jeter was an assistant.

The new Big East conference is represented in the tryouts by both Gardner, Providence’s Bryce Cotton and Creighton’s Doug McDermott. Big East departing members include Notre Dame’s Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, Syracuse’s C.J. Fair, Louisville’s Luke Hancock and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick.

Gardner will just miss his own coach, Buzz Williams, in Colorado. Williams was selected last month as a “court coach” for the U19 World Championship team training camp, also in Colorado Springs. That camp goes from June 14-19, one week before the 6-foot-8 Gardner arrives on the 24th.

This is both quite an impressive honor for Gardner and an important one. As important as time spent with teammates is, there’s no replacement for competing against some of the best players in the nation while wearing the colors of our nation on your jersey. If Gardner is selected to the team–and looking at the roster (below), he has a solid chance of doing just that–it would become an even bigger feat, spending 10 days in Russia while playing against some of the best amateurs the world has to offer.

In 2011 the team kept just two back-to-the-basket forwards/centers, Yale’s Greg Mangano and Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe. Two years before that, Clemson’s Trevor Booker and Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado were selected to the team, so it appears Gardner is fighting for one of two post-position spots.

One last note, Vander Blue played for Team USA on the U19 team in 2010.

The 29 training camp invitees are:

Eric Atkins (Notre Dame)
Markel Brown (Oklahoma State)
Deonte Burton (Nevada)
Quinn Cook (Duke)
Bryce Cotton (Providence)
Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado)
C.J. Fair (Syracuse)
Yogi Ferrell(Indiana)
Davante Gardner(Marquette)
Treveon Graham (Virginia Commonwealth)
Jerian Grant (Notre Dame)
P.J. Hairston (North Carolina)
A.J. Hammons (Purdue)
Luke Hancock (Louisville)
Joe Harris (Virginia)
Tyler Haws (BYU)
Andre Hollins (Minnesota)
Rodney Hood (Duke)
Josh Huestis(Stanford)
Cory Jefferson(Baylor)
Sean Kilpatrick(Cincinnati)
Alex Kirk (New Mexico)
Devyn Marble (Iowa)
Doug McDermott (Creighton)
Adreian Payne (Michigan State)
Chasson Randle (Stanford)
Will Sheehey(Indiana)
Aaron White (Iowa)
Kendall Williams (New Mexico)

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