BOWLING GREEN (WTVG) - Austin Gardner has a customary seat at the end of the bench. That's because of his title of Graduate Assistant with the Falcons basketball team.
Gardner has the usual uniform for this role - dress shoes, socks, a suit and a clipboard. He wants to work with young men as a coach and this is his first stop in that journey as it happens to come on Michael Huger's staff. Gardner spent the last five years playing hoops down the road for the University of Findlay.
"When he got here, we had a conversation," Huger said. "He had a boot on during that time; he had a foot injury that he was dealing with. He came to BG and I said, 'Are you interested in playing at all,' and he said, 'Nah, I'm done.'"
But five days after we saw Gardner with the clipboard and suit in December, he had on a different uniform.
No dress shoes.
This time, Gardner matches his new teammates as Gardner makes the switch from graduate assistant to ... player? So how did this happen?
"We were just in one of the offices and they were like, 'Well, let's see if you can get a sixth year,' Gardner said. "I took a redshirt year after my freshman year with knee surgery. I was out eighteen months. I got hurt two years later six games into the season, got hurt in the last thirty seconds of overtime in a game and so I didn't play twenty percent of the season.
"So I took a medical hardship and that apparently gave me my sixth year."
You certainly cannot miss Gardner on the practice floor at the Stroh Center.
"During this winning streak has been since Austin has been on the floor with our guys," Huger said. "His energy, he just brings so much competitiveness to our practice and how hard he goes."
This is the chance for the former St. John's Jesuit Titan to play because in the big picture, Gardner likely will not see much time on the floor during games.
"I can't really explain it because I've never done it before and I didn't expect this to happen," Gardner said. "Now that it has, just embrace every moment and enjoy being in a uniform one last time."
In a uniform for a school he grew up watching at Anderson Arena when Dan Dakich was the head coach of the men's basketball team. Gardner also grew up with Dakich's son Andrew.