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Kenwood HS has named Shameca Gardner as its next girls basketball coach.

Kenwood High School has its newest girls basketball coach.

Athletic Director Garry Chadwell announced on July 1 that they have hired Shameca Gardner to lead the program. Gardner takes over a team that went 5-20 in 2019-20 under Charles Clark, who was hired by Clarksville Academy to fill its girls coaching void this offseason.

Gardner is from Springfield, Tenn. and graduated from South Haven Christian School, where she was a four-time MVP, All-Conference and Player of the Year honoree with three state and conference championships. She attended Tennessee Temple University where she became the basketball program’s all-time leader in points and assists with three MVP awards.

After playing professionally in Germany, she entered the coaching world and has experience leading AAU, high school and college programs as both an assistant and head coach.

“I just want to give (the players) another aspect,” Gardner said. “Working hard on and off the court. Character. I know winning is everything to some people, but it’s OK to lose. I just want to give them another approach to the basketball game, not just about winning. It’s about being young ladies and being scholars, keeping their academics in order, doing what you need to do because you can’t play basketball forever.”

Gardner had previously interviewed for a Kenwood coaching job when the school was searching for its next boys coach before hiring Jason James, giving her an already-established relationship with the school before eventually being hired this year.

The Lady Knights enter the 2020-21 season – should it be played given the coronavirus pandemic – as one of the youngest teams in District 10-AAA. They will graduate two seniors while retaining nine freshmen and sophomores along with two juniors. Gardner is familiar with taking over youthful and impressionable rosters and appreciates both the challenges and opportunity the situation presents.

“You always start somewhere,” she said. “Younger players are eager to learn. Sometimes when you go in and you have seniority, they’re already set in their ways. ‘Hey, the old coach did this, old coach did that, I don’t want to do anything new.’ But you have a chance to reach the younger kids and let them buy in because you have them for three or four years. That’s where it really starts... You’ve got to let them know, ‘Hey, this is what it’s about,’ and if they don’t buy in, they’re not going to be able to compete.”

Because her hire became official during the dead period, she had not yet had a chance to meet her team going into the July Fourth weekend. Because of the ongoing pandemic, Gardner emphasized the potential need to start meeting everyone over Zoom at first.

Gardner joins Northeast’s Tracie Mason-Blair as the only two black female head coaches of basketball teams in Montgomery County, which she called an honor and a sign that things are turning around. Gardner emphasized that she’s ready to teach her players to love everyone, that we’re all one human race and no one group of people is better than the other.

“I’m ready to go,” she said. “Ready to get it going. Ready to meet everyone and just give them a place where they don’t have to be afraid if they need answers. My door is open. I just want to make sure they’re doing it the right way.”

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