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Punishing MHS player more is a mistake
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
Having not seen what transpired on Dec. 28 at the 10th Annual Modesto Christian Holiday Hoops Classic between Kiwi Gardner and an unnamed official, I stand in the same shoes as the California Interscholastic Federation officials who will now rule on Gardner’s future. My only hope is that they find insufficient evidence to rule “physical assault,” which, according to the facts presented in the Bulletin, would be a mistake.

Having watched Gardner play, having spoken to the young man on several occasions, and knowing how passionate he is about basketball, it’s easy to conjure an image of a young man in the heat of battle who took just one brief step too far in arguing his case after the whistle.

If the CIF takes away Gardner’s opportunity to return to the court for the rest of his high school career, it will serve no purpose other than to make an unfair example of a young person who has undoubtedly learned a valuable lesson.

Gardner is a unique player with unquestioned skill, but that doesn’t excuse him from such behavior, and I have no doubt this incident has already illuminated that fact, not only to Gardner and his teammates, but every other basketball player in the Valley Oak League and the Sac-Joaquin Section at large.

There’s no question that Gardner’s suspension has spoken to the fact that leadership in the form of humility is the most appropriate tack to take, even when the cards don’t fall favorably. Gardner’s loss has hurt his team, his coaches and his school, and it could have been avoided. Considering his reputation as a player, not only in the SJS, but throughout Northern California and the college scouting circuit that is currently examining his every move, there’s no doubt his suspension has sent its intended message.

It’s my hope that the leadership at Manteca High will stand steadfast behind Gardner going forward. Gardner’s skills are immaterial in this matter, but his character is not, and, for whatever its worth, I’m confident in saying that his heart and mind have always been in the right place.

Gardner is a good kid with a very bright future ahead, and I can only imagine how difficult this time has been for him and his teammates.

It’s my belief that any further action taken to punish him would be anything but productive.
Brandon Petersen
Jan. 7, 2010