By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
West Ranch boys’ basketball will welcome senior center Jazz Gardner to the team in one of the biggest transfers of the summer.
The 7-footer is a three-time Hacienda League Player of the Year and is coming off a 19.3-points, 13-rebounds and 3.6-blocks per game season with Los Altos.
Gardner came as a package deal that Wildcats head coach Jeff Bryant more than welcomed.
The team will also get Jazz’s younger brother, sophomore Jai Gardner, while the coaching staff will add 13-year pro Jelani Gardner, the boys’ father.
Bryant noted Jelani as being the piece he is most excited for, citing his experience as a colossal addition to the West Ranch coaching staff.
Jazz is currently ESPN’s 82nd-ranked high school basketball player in the nation. His presence takes the Wildcats, who are already coming off two straight perfect Foothill League titles, to the next level.
The addition of the big center also moves Foothill League Player of the Year Andrew Meadow to his natural position of forward.
“I told my staff, Andrew Meadow and his camp should be smiling,” said Bryant. “Because it puts Andrew at his natural position. He’s not guarding the biggest guys on the floor anymore.”
Meadow will no longer be tasked with guarding the opposing team’s biggest interior threats. The 6-foot, 7-inch forward can now feast in West Ranch’s half-court offense and move freely while Jazz handles the paint.
Bryant also expects Jai to be a big part of the program this season and his next two years in a Wildcats’ jersey.
The team will also receive Santa Clarita Christian School transfer Isaiah Fields and Valencia transfer Zach Baurmen.
Fields also brings high-level experience to the team while Bryant thinks the sharpshooter from the Vikings can be a sleeper on the team.
Jelani has taken up coaching since his retirement from professional basketball over 10 years ago. The veteran wasted no time and has been coaching college and high school basketball, serving most recently as the head coach at South Hills in 2019.
“[Jelani’s] the key piece to all this that’s going to take us over the top,” said Bryant.
West Ranch’s stars are poised for the big additions coming this season. Jaqari Miles and James Evans are both coming off 16-points-per-game seasons and filled the rest of the stat sheet out nicely, too. The pair of Foothill League first-teamers were pivotal parts of the league championship last season and will look to take the next step as a team.
It’s a large mix of new faces but the transfers, returners and coaching staff all share the same goal in mind and will look to get West Ranch over the hump and to a CIF championship.
“I think we all have one common goal and that’s to win a CIF championship,” said Bryant.