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September 26, 2010Auburn men's basketball coach Tony Barbee and staff made a good first impression on Angela Gardner during an earlier in-person visit.
Barbee and staff made an even better one over the weekend.
Gardner and her son, Okolona (Miss.) four-star shooting guard D.J. Gardner, were in Auburn on an official visit. It was their first time on the Tigers' campus.
"The first time the coaches came to Okolona, I walked away from that meeting and knew that I liked Auburn," said Angela Gardner. "After our visit there this weekend, I walked away and loved it."
And it didn't have anything to do with the Tigers' new basketball arena. It was more about the Tigers' new basketball personnel.
It was more about Barbee and his assistants: Randall Dickey, Tony Madlock and Milt Wagner.
"I think those coaches are positive men that could not only help my son in basketball, but I think they would be a great influence in his life off the court as well, to help him become a positive young man in society," Angela Gardner said. "That is something that is very important to me while (D.J.) is going to school. I want him to get a good education. I want him to play ball because I know that's what he wants to do, but I want him to be a productive young man also.
"The (Auburn) Arena is beautiful, don't get me wrong, I loved it, but the impact that those coaches would have on my son's life is more important to me than an arena. The way they are with the players, the way they interacted with D.J. and the way they treated me, I was very pleased. That means a lot to me, to be comfortable entrusting someone with my son."
Angela Gardner said she was comfortable around the Tigers' staff throughout the trip, so much so that she gave in and attended her first college football game. Auburn hosted South Carolina Saturday night.
"I've never been to a college football game, and I wasn't going to go to the one Saturday," she said. "But Coach Dickey said, 'I just want you to see the (pregame flight of the) eagle.' Now, I'm thinking to myself, 'I do not want to see a bird flying.'
"But I went."
And she is glad she did.
"It was just unbelievable," said Angela Gardner. "I'm longing to go back and see it again. That was so amazing. I really loved that. I also loved the energy you feel from the crowd. That support system for those kids, it was just unbelievable. It was great. I loved the environment.
"And everybody we were with, the coaches, everybody made me feel comfortable. It was like going to the game with a group of my friends. That's how it felt."
Her son had similar reviews.
"We had a great time," said D.J. Gardner, whose player hosts were Andre Malone and Allen Payne. "The crowd at the game was loud, and that Cameron Newton, man, he is good.
"I really enjoyed going to the game, but I really enjoyed the whole visit. Everything was nice. It really helped Auburn for me. That was my first time and I had a really good time. I loved the Arena. It is amazing. I love their dedication, and it feels like a family."
D.J. Gardner, 6-foot-6, 195 pounds, has three more official visits scheduled. He'll visit Mississippi State this weekend, UTEP the next (Oct. 8) and Memphis Oct. 15. He doesn't have a date set for a decision. Gardner said he would make his college choice when he's ready.
When that time comes, should he choose Auburn, his mother wouldn't object.
"I would be very satisfied if Auburn is where he chooses to go," Angela Gardner said. "I love everything about Auburn.
"I would be very comfortable with that decision."