A mother’s love and sacrifice pave the road for an elite high school star’s success

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 8:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gray Collegiate’s Brandon Gardner shines in Columbia as a rising star on everyone’s radar. The War Eagles 6′7 junior forward ranks 48th nationally by ESPN for the 2023 recruiting class.

Gardner’s ascent in the basketball world began after crushing disappointment in middle school.

“I came home sad,” Gardner recalls after finding out the news. “My mom thought I was playing, but I was really sad because everyone thought I was going to make the team.”

As a seventh-grader, Gardner was cut from his middle school team in Waynesboro, Georgia. Gardner told his mom that the coach said his arms were too long for his body. Keep in mind Gardner could dunk at the time.

“I kept reassuring him that he’s a good basketball player,” said his mother, Tameka Gordon. “Brandon played in the yard every day.”

Gordon put Brandon in a local developmental league in Georgia with boys and girls to continue developing his skills.

“It was a way to keep him encouraged,” added Gordon. “I also put him in the band.”

Brandon played the trombone that year. And if you listen to him play, he did quite well. It also gave him a boost in self-confidence.

“We had concerts on Fridays,” said Gardner. “The whole school used to go to them. I used to love that.”

Brandon’s passion to jam was on the basketball court.

So, it was time to find him a new home. Gordon sacrificed to allow her son to pursue basketball dreams and sent him to live with his dad in Orangeburg County.

“This is what I’m supposed to do to give him every option to be successful,” said Gordon.

Gardner made the Bethune-Bowman High varsity team as an 8th grader. Validation he was good enough to lace it up.

“I learned confidence is key,” said Gardner about his experience. “Be strong with the ball. Defense wins ball games.”

Gordon prepared a big move to find her son a new environment to thrive.

At a summer workout between 8th and 9th grade, they bumped into Gray Collegiate boys head coach Dion Bethea. The War Eagles leader instantly noticed Gardner’s talent.

“Watching his athleticism, especially as an 8th grader, it showed a lot potential-wise,” added Bethea.

Bethea wanted Gardner to check out the program and school.

Gordon did her due diligence by researching and visiting Gray Collegiate Academy. She and Brandon fell in love with the school. So, Gordon moved out of Georgia to Columbia to allow Gardner to blossom. He has, becoming one of the elite prospects in the 2023 class.

Gardner trusts the Gray Collegiate process. Results are beyond Gordon’s wildest dreams with South Carolina, Georgetown, Memphis, and other top collegiate programs recruiting her son.

“It means everything to me,” said Gordon. “Because he works so hard.”

“Work hard at your craft, and everything will come through,” said Gardner.

And this summer, he’s taken visits to potential landing spots when he heads to college.

Gardner has met the likes of NBA legend Patrick Ewing, now the head coach at Georgetown while being recruited by Power 5 programs like South Carolina and many others.

“Keep the same mentality I have right now,” said Gardner about what some of the big-time head coaches tell him. “Keep the same motor I have. Keep building on my game. Don’t try to become something you’re not.”

“He’s surpassed everybody’s expectations,” mentioned Gordon. “Nobody had any idea that Brandon would get a call from Patrick Ewing or Penny Hardaway. The phone conversations I’ve had are mind-boggling.

Sometimes all you need is someone to believe you’re good enough to fulfill your potential. In Gardner’s case, his mother’s love and belief shine a light on following his path.

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