Davante Gardner knows precisely what he needs to show professional basketball scouts, and it has little to do with his considerable skills.
"I hear the same thing from everybody," Gardner said. "Have a motor, run the floor every time and get my body in shape."
Add that heavy dose of personal discipline to Gardner's deft shooting touch and knack for rebounding, mix in the right coach and team, and you could have an extended career, if not in the States then certainly overseas.
The next phase of Gardner's audition doubles as a homecoming with the 6-foot-8 Marquette senior returning to his native Hampton Roads to compete in this week's Portsmouth Invitational Tournament at Churchland High — the event runs Wednesday-Saturday, with Gardner debuting 7 p.m. Thursday.
A showcase for 64 college seniors who are marginal NBA prospects, the PIT brings scouts, general managers and agents from across the basketball universe to the 757 for four days of games that occasionally unearth finds such as Jimmy Butler, Gardner's former Marquette teammate and today a starter for the Chicago Bulls.
After Butler's 2011 breakout performance here and at other NBA camps, the Bulls drafted Butler with the 30th and final selection of the first round. No one projects Gardner cracking either round of the 2014 draft, but his credentials are very similar to Butler's.
A graduate of King's Fork High in Suffolk, Gardner last month was voted the Big East's sixth man of the year for the second consecutive season. He led the Golden Eagles in scoring at 14.9 points per game and was second in rebounding a 5.7.
Modest numbers, sure. But understand that Gardner shot an efficient 52.8 percent from the field and 78.1 percent from the foul line while averaging only 26.6 minutes. By comparison, Butler averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 34.6 minutes as a senior.
But Butler is a 220-pound wing. Gardner is a 290-pound power forward.
"I'm not athletic at all," Gardner told me during the 2013 NCAA East Regional, where Marquette lost the championship game to then-conference rival Syracuse. "I know how to use my body very well to get to the bucket. I just use my weight to push people around."
Bulldozing alone won't fly in the NBA, and Gardner knows it. He understands he needs to eat smarter, drop at least 10-15 pounds and push himself more.
"I've played at that weight before, but they feed us a lot at Marquette," said Gardner, the anti-Shabazz Napier.
A slimmer Gardner need not be weaker or less productive around the rim. A slimmer Gardner absolutely would be better able to play longer stretches and extend his offensive game to the perimeter, where he's capable of making mid-range jumpers.
Consider Gardner's PIT teammate Ian Chiles, a 7-foot-2 center from Morgan State. Chiles is six inches taller than Gardner but 30 pounds lighter. Not to suggest that all body types are the same, but 6-8, 290 is hardly the prototype frame for navigating the NBA's punishing, 82-game grind.
Gardner and Chiles, by the way, are part of an interesting Sales Systems squad at the PIT that also includes small forward Niels Giffey, a two-time national champion at Connecticut, and Gonzaga point guard David Stockton, whose father, John, knows just a touch about the position and is scheduled to speak at Friday's PIT luncheon.
Gardner is completing second-semester courses and was scheduled to be a last-minute arrival.
"I will have a lot of people there," he said by phone from Milwaukee. "They haven't watched me in a long time. It will be just like old times."
Gardner hopes so. As a junior he helped King's Fork win the state Group AAA championship, and the following season he averaged 22.2 points and 12.2 rebounds.
Williams stunned many last month by leaving Marquette for Virginia Tech, and when I asked him about Gardner during his Hokies introduction, he applauded Gardner for progressing from a seldom-used freshman to one of the top-30 scorers (1,287 career points) in school history.
"He had a great career," Williams said.
"It's a business," Gardner said of Williams' move, "and I guess he made the best business choice. He's a good coach, a lot of intensity. … He's on the sidelines jumping up and down. That's the kind of coach I like."
The next chore for Gardner is to bring greater intensity not only to his game but also his conditioning.