Chesney Gardner picks a college

Tom Flynn
Special To The Black Mountain News

Warlassies’ senior standout Chesney Gardner will take her basketball career to the next level when she signs with Uiversity of South Carolina Aiken later in November.

 “They saw me play and they contacted me and I really liked and talked to the assistant coach for an hour and a half the first time,” said Gardner. “And all of a sudden the next day they showed up and offered me a full ride.”

With her senior season at Owen right around the corner, Chesney Gardner has decided she'll play college basketball at USC Aiken.

Gardner had the offer in hand heading into the fall semester, but has kept her options open until deciding to make the move on USC Aiken.

“Basketball’s a crazy thing; you never know what’s going to happen,” said Gardner. “Then I got another offer from Milligan.”

The Buffs are a regional college power within the NAIA and have averaged 21 wins over the past three seasons.

“My aunt went to school and played there so we knew a lot of people and I really liked the coaches up there and I visited last week, actually,” Gardner said.

“I sat down and wrote a pros and cons list and it was really hard,” she continued. “I prayed about it a lot and I final came to the decision that Aiken was where I felt like I needed to be and saw myself. So I called the coach and I told him I was ready to go.”

The senior verbally committed to the Pacers on Oct. 22 and will formally sign at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the gym at Owen High School.

The Pacers compete in the NCAA Division II Peach Belt Conference and open their 2018 campaign with an exhibition against Furman on Nov. 1. They’re led by head coach Mark Miller, who is in his second season with USC Aiken and has a college career mark of 245-109.

“It’s a good program that she’s going to and she seems excited about it. She’s a good athlete,” said new head coach of the program at Owen Rusty Smith, looking on while Gardner and the Warlassies competed in a volleyball playoff match on Oct. 24. Most of the recruiting of Gardner was done prior to his arrival on the Owen campus.

With the decision comes the ability for Gardner to focus fully on the sport that she loves.

“All through my high school career I’ve been stressing about college. It’s always been my dream to go play somewhere," Gardner said. "Now that I know I have something, I can just relax and I don’t have to force things and I don’t have to pressure myself into being a star play. I can just simply play basketball and I think that will improve my game a lot."

That doesn’t bode well for Owen opponents. Last year, as a junior, Gardner poured in 441 points for the Warlassies and averaged 17 points per game as the team went 20-7. She has 1,287 points through three seasons.

An equally exciting part of the senior’s story for Owen is what she plans to do in the classroom at USC Aiken, which was ranked the #1 regional public college in the South by U.S. News and World Report for the 14th consecutive year this fall.

“I’d like to major in education, become a teacher, and return to teach in the area,” said Gardner. Owen and the community would eagerly welcome the return.

The Warlassies formally open their fall practice season on Oct. 31.