Gardner Led Tigers On and Off Court
It's been a season of rebounding, and not just on the court, for Gardner.
"Really, just [by] taking credit for some of our losses," he said. "I feel that some games that we lost, if I could have performed better or done diferent things as a leader on this team, we could have won some of those games."
Gardner hoped to be captain as a sophomore, but then-Coach Quin Snyder wanted him to wait and learn better leadership skills.
This season, the Tiger star was one of the Big 12's leading scorers and he made his mark in MU history with a memorable, 40-point game against Kansas in Mizzou Arena.
"Jason [Horton] and Jimmy [McKinney] did a great job of getting me open. They were really the quarterback," Gardner recalled. "They had the plays in their hands, and calling the plays, and they rode me when I was hot."
Gardner helped his team get through a losing season by using his experience with difficult times, such as his father's death when Thomas was only seven.
"He was the one who put the basketball in my hand," Gardner remembered. "It was tough losing him. It kind of gave me a gap between male figures. I never really let anyone in, and the person I really let in was Quin Snyder. And I think that changed a lot in my game and just me personally."
Despite a season of distractions, Gardner continued to focus on why he first picked up a basketball.
"It's still fun, although you lose and you win. But, you know it was a game you played when you were little," said Gardner. "And, if you're going to be a competitor, you're going to keep playing, win or lose."
After Nebraska beat MU in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, Gardner said he's not sure if he'll return to Missouri for his senior season or turn pro.