Leadership role for Lady 'Dogs falls to Gardner

By Matt Hill

   Ginny White, Alice Peters, Amber Farmer, Kari Stout and Kelly Shoun.
   Those have been household names the last two years on Hampton girls basketball teams that have won championships.
   Those are also players that Joy Gardner has looked up to while she has played beside them.
   Now as a junior, Gardner is the one being counted on for leadership.
   After waiting in the wings the last two seasons, it's now Gardner who actually has the most experience on this year's Lady Bulldog squad.
   Gardner, a 5-5 guard, has accepted the role as a leader.
   "It's definitely a change," Gardner said. "But having those people before me, and teaching me what they went through whenever they were younger, and now that I'm a junior I've been around and I just learned off them and saw what they had to do whenever they were in that role."
   Hampton girls basketball is known for its winning tradition, and players like Stout and White knew how to win. Gardner was a role player on a district championship team last year, and on a state tournament squad two years ago.
   Gardner says those players taught her patience.
   "They taught me not to force the game, to let the game come to you," Gardner said. "If you wait for it, you will be rewarded."
   Those older girls were there for Gardner, and now she's there for the freshmen and sophomores. Gardner is helping to bring them along, and to show them the ropes.
   "Just like Ginny White and Kari Stout and all those other girls did with me when I was young, I'm having to do the same thing so that we can bring them along and have a good team," Gardner said. "It's different, but having those stars that we had in the past years teaching me how to do it, it's been easy for me this year."
   One former Hampton player has really influenced Gardner. That happens to be Stout, who scored 32 points last week in one of her first games as a Milligan College Lady Buffalo.
   Gardner tries to pattern her game after Stout, as they can both shoot it well and play great defense.
   "Kari Stout is one of the most influential people in my game," Gardner said. "She's taught me a lot of things. I'm not even surprised that she is succeeding in college basketball.
   "I sort of wanted to pattern my game after her, because she's been so successful. But in a way I kind of want to be unique, and have my own sort of thing. But a lot of my game was after Kari Stout."
   Gardner has actually already made a name for herself at Hampton, and even got tabbed with a nickname. As a freshman, local radio announcers started calling her "Instant Excitement", because she always provided a spark to the team coming off the bench.
   But now that nickname may not apply anymore, because Gardner will probably be counted on to play most of the 32 minutes.
   Despite now needing more stamina, Gardner hopes to continue electrifying the Hampton crowd.
   "It's a lot of pressure coming off the bench," Gardner said. "You've got to have that sudden boom that I brought when I came off the bench, but I'm going to have to work on having that excitement through the whole game."
   Gardner comes into the 2002-2003 season with high expectations. A lot of great players have come through Hampton, and Gardner hopes to add her name to the honor roll of Lady Bulldog legends.
   Gardner thinks the fans are also expecting a lot out of the junior.
   "Everybody has been talking about me being the next Kari Stout," Gardner said. "I'm glad that they put that name out. It's a lot of potential to say that I'm the next Kari Stout. It's a lot of pressure to put on me, because I've got those high expectations. But I think the next two years are going to be good.
   Hampton head coach Leslie Campbell also has high expectations for Gardner.
   "I expect too many things from her actually," Campbell said. "She's strong enough to handle it mentally and physically. She wants to win, so I don't think we're going to have a problem with Joy."
   Gardner is not only hoping to do big things individually, but she also wants her team to have a big year.
   A lot of experts think Hampton may be down a little bit this year, but Gardner doesn't see that happening.
   "We've been hearing a lot about this is a rebuilding year and all that," Gardner said. "I know we're young, we are very young. But I think by the end of the season if we keep improving like we did over the summer and in practice, we will be able to hang in there with the toughest. We'll be right up there with them. Just like Hampton basketball always has been."