GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina junior Jayden Gardner is one of 20 players on the initial 2021 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Watch List, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Wednesday.

Gardner led the American Athletic Conference in scoring (19.7 ppg) last season, finished third in rebounding (9.2 rpg) as well as fourth in field goal percentage (.521) and minutes played (34.5 mpg). He received second-team all-conference honors a year ago and was unanimously voted to the preseason all-conference first-team by the league’s head coaches this year.

In addition to being The American’s top returning scorer, he is also its top returning rebounder. Gardner’s 23 career double-doubles are also the most of any active player in the conference.

As a sophomore, he became just the third player in ECU’s Division I history to lead a conference scoring and posted the third-highest single-season scoring average and fifth-most total points (610). Gardner surpassed the 1,000-points and 500 rebounds for his career last season. He enters the 2020-21 campaign tied for 18th on the Pirates’ all-time scoring list with 1,115 points and 19th on the career rebounding chart with 547 boards.

Gardner is one of two American Athletic Conference players on the list joined by Memphis sophomore D.J. Jeffries.

Named after Class of 1993 Hall of Famer and 16-year professional basketball player Julius Erving, the annual honor in its seventh year recognizes the top small forwards in Division I men’s college basketball. Previous winners of the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award include Saddiq Bey, Villanova (2020), Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga (2019), Mikal Bridges, Villanova (2018), Josh Hart, Villanova (2017), Denzel Valentine, Michigan State (2016) and Stanley Johnson, Arizona (2015).

College basketball fans are encouraged to participate in Fan Voting presented by Dell Technologies in each of the three rounds. In late January, the watch list of 20 players for the 2021 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award will be narrowed to just 10. In late February, five finalists will be presented to Mr. Erving and the Hall of Fame’s selection committee.

For more information on the 2021 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award and the latest updates, log onto and follow @hoophall and #ErvingAward on Twitter and Instagram. Starting Five Fan Voting presented by Dell Technologies will go live on Friday, November 6.

2021 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award Candidates* 

Derrick Alston Jr.Boise State
Jalen JohnsonDuke
Wendell MooreDuke
Jayden GardnerEast Carolina
Keyontae JohnsonFlorida
Corey KispertGonzaga
Brandon Boston Jr.Kentucky
D.J. JeffriesMemphis
Aaron WigginsMaryland
Franz WagnerMichigan
Aaron HenryMichigan State
Ron Harper Jr.Rutgers
Matt MitchellSan Diego State
Ziaire WilliamsStanford
Yves PonsTennessee
Terrence Shannon, Jr.Texas Tech
Chris SmithUCLA
Timmy AllenUtah
Jermaine SamuelsVillanova
Sam HauserVirginia

*Players can play their way onto and off of the list at any point in the 2020-21 season*