Jan. 27, 2010
By Matt Winter
SEATTLE - For much of his life, two things have always made sense to Darnell Gant. The first is what every Husky fan knows him for--basketball. It's what gets him attention and what earned him a scholarship to a first-rate university. The second, which gets him no reward and no recognition, is music. As a self-taught piano player, a veteran drummer, and an avid fan of any and every genre, music is the one place Gant has felt at home as much as on the basketball court.
Gant, a redshirt sophomore, started playing the drums at his church when he was five years old. His grandmother, who raised him, was active in the local church music program as a vocalist and gave young Darnell his exposure to music.
"My grandmother was my biggest influence," Gant says. "She would sing in church, then we would go visit and watch another church. She knew all the music, so I knew all the music."
Gant says it was his cousin that first taught him to play the piano, teaching him to play a few songs here and there when he was younger. However, when his cousin wasn't around Gant's method became more of self-teaching.
"I'd hear a song on the radio and figure out how to play it," Gant explains. "I'd watch other piano players play at other churches and stuff. It's kind of like watching AAU guys and NBA guys play basketball in that you learn things and pick up things from other guys."
There are a lot of similarities between basketball and music--whether it is preparation, practice, or finding your role within the group. Gant has made his name on the Husky basketball team as a guy who will do all the little things--rebounding, hard defense, setting screens, taking charges--an attitude he developed at a young age through music.
"When I was in middle school I played in a band," Gant says, "I was the drummer in the jazz band because, I don't know, I guess I wasn't good enough on the piano. I could play a bunch other of stuff, though. Whatever they needed in the band, I could play it."
That unselfish, team-first attitude is what makes Gant such an asset on the court. In high school, he was considered a top-100 high recruit after averaging 22 points, 14 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 5.6 blocks, and 3.0 steals during his senior year at Crenshaw High School. However, since his arrival at UW, Gant's contributions have been much less glamorous. As a redshirt freshman he started 34 of 35 games, averaged 3.1 points and 3.3 rebounds and earned the Coaches Award for having the best attitude in the program. Gant was asked to do everything from using his size to hold down the post to using his length and athleticism to match up with Arizona State guard James Harden, last year's Pac-10 Player of the Year.
Stepping up is not an issue for Gant as he is no stranger to big moments. Darnell's grandmother was at first hesitant to let him play the piano at church due to his inexperience. It wasn't that he couldn't play, rather because his only experience up to around the age of 10 was on the drums. The first time he ever played the piano in church was something of spontaneity.
"One day she was up at church singing by herself," Gant explains. "So I just went up and started playing."
The act reduced his grandmother to tears and earned himself a role playing piano in the church. A few years later at age 15, the organ player in their church died, so Darnell took over and held the position through his high school years.
The Huskies are lucky to have a player like Gant, whose hard work and selflessness are needed to balance a team with so many who can score. However, in just his redshirt sophomore year, he has plenty of time to come into his own as a big-time player. Off the court, it's his well-roundedness that make him special. Basketball is obviously something Gant will do as long as he can, but will he hold on to his music?
"I will always do music," Gant proclaims, "I will do it forever."