Benson inks Gardner to NLI

Benson inks Gardner to NLI

VIDEO: Chuck Benson signing day interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson has announced the signing of one post player during the early signing period to a national letter of intent. 

Will Gardner, a 6-9, 240-pound forward from Oak Ridge, N.C., will join Carson-Newman's men's hoops team for the 2015-16 season. 

"Over the last four years, we've been really picky about who we offer," Benson said. "We really try to work our way through the process with kids, and feel that they can be a part of our program, only then do we make an offer.

"We felt after spending time with Will, that he would be a good addition based on his attitude and how he interacted within our program.  He's a big kid, who's smart and has great upside."

Gardner plays for the Bishop McGuinness Villains and head coach Josh Thompson.  As a junior he averaged a double-double with 12.3 points and 10.6 rebounds.  He also dished out 3.4 assists a game and blocked 2.7 shots per contest. 

Gardner earned All-Northwest Conference honors his junior season. 

 "He's a big kid with a fighter mentality," Benson said. "He's a beat, bang, blue collar approach.  There's nothing sexy about how he does things.  He's willing to get down and dirty in the low post and just be physical.  We'll need that down there."  

GDS won a pair of Little Four Championships with Gardner on the club. 

The son of Shannon and Kerry Gardner, Will comes from an accomplished athletic family.  His uncle Mark Lewis played basketball at North Carolina State, his cousing Grant Lewis was a football star at Wisconsin while his cousin Zach Mettenberger has starred at quarterback for both the LSU Tigers and Tennessee Titans.  Another uncle, Brian Lewis played basketball at Samford. 

Gardner is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars. 

Carson-Newman loses just two seniors this season.  Benson said that results in the Eagles being ultra-selective with who they offer scholarships to this season. 

"We didn't throw out a lot of offers," Benson said. "We want to be slow and steady because we have six freshmen this year. I'm not certain what we'll need because we have so many unknowns. Regardless, we want to get kids here who fit well, who will do well academically and look to pursue careers when they're done.  We're looking for well-rounded and versatile kids."

Carson-Newman's current crop of student athletes will be on display Saturday on the road at Catawba.  Tipoff between the Eagles and Indians is set for 4 p.m. from Goodman Gym on the Eagle Sports Network. Pregame coverage begins at 3:45 p.m. with the Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at 

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