Gant Ready For His Close-Up
by David Lombardi
Deafening noise and captivated silence.
As Darnell Gant's five-year career at the University of Washington enters its home stretch, those are the two moments that the Huskies power forward will remember most fondly from his time in Seattle.
The ear-shattering noise came numerous times, whenever he hammered home an emphatic dunk to cap a Washington run that brought the house down at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The silence occurred when Gant kicked off his pursuit of another passion, acting in front of a packed auditorium in Washington's 2010 stage rendition of a "Midsummer Night's Dream" --cleverly renamed "A U-Dubber Night's Dream."
"Basketball and acting, they're different," Gant, the drama major who has already finished his degree, says. "In one, you have to perform with everyone jumping and screaming at you. In the other, you can't mess up when everyone is just looking at you quietly. But I have a passion for both."
The 6-foot-8 power forward from Crenshaw High School (Los Angeles) is talented in multiple facets. He sees a future beyond college in basketball arenas, on theatre stages, and also in recording studios. He's already an experienced musician, having played the piano, organ, and drums at church growing up in Southern California.
For now, though, Gant is focused on the present. He's soaking in the swan song of his five-year tenure with the Huskies that included a redshirt season. In about a month, there's a very good chance that he will be the first Husky to ever play in four NCAA Tournaments. He's experienced a lot of success in a purple and gold uniform: everything from a regular season conference title in his first year of action to consecutive Pac-10 Tournament championships.
"It feels good to have accomplished so much here in Washington," Gant says. "I feel like our home crowd is the best in the nation, and they deserve it."
Gant has become the experienced leader of a team of explosive youngsters and the established senior glue of a squad that is highlighted by the likes of Tony Wroten - the odds-on favorite to win the conference freshman of the year award - and sensational sophomore Terrence Ross.
"Sometimes the young guys get caught trying to do their own thing," he says. "I feel like I'm the one who has to keep everyone together. You have to come together to win, and it's my job to make that happen."
It's no surprise, then, that Gant embodies a little bit of everything that the deep Washington roster has to offer. While his tall frame has allowed him to become a force inside, Gant's versatility shines in his perimeter shooting ability - he's buried 18 three-pointers this season - and in his responsibility to make sure the Huskies' defensive assignments are correctly executed.
"He's a hard worker," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar told the Los Angeles Times last year. "He came to me early his freshman year and said, 'I think I might want to redshirt. There are things I want to work on.' That's a lot of humility right there. He just does the little things to help your team win."
As far as versatility is concerned with Gant, though, the basketball court is only the tip of the iceberg. He hopes to sign a contract to play professionally next year. He plans to use some of the potential money from that venture, though, to buy his own studio equipment so that he can more easily pursue his R&B, hip-hop and gospel musical career.
It's acting, however, that has become the new dream on Gant's radar during his time in Washington. Though the silence of a theatre shares little in common with the deafening roar of a packed arena, he has found it easy to duplicate his hardwood love onto the stage, particularly through his preparation for the main event.
"I started to get my fellow actors to start warming up for the play just like I warm up for a game," he told Fox Sports West. "I got them all hyped and everything. It was fun."
Ultimately, the newfound acting passion has allowed Gant to mold a blueprint for success to supplement his musical work after his playing career.
"I feel that I still have a lot more to show as an actor," he says. "I can be on TV shows. If someone gives me the opportunity, I won't disappoint."
But television is on the backburner. For now. The current order of business on Gant's agenda - at least for the next month or two - is to not disappoint on the basketball court as his first-place Huskies enter the season's stretch run.
With March Madness looming, Gant is committed to making sure that his young team understands the value of the opportunity in front of them. There's a greater sense of urgency this time around, since it's his last crack at a deep tournament run.
"Every game is going to get harder," the Huskies' elder statesman says. "If we lose, I'd blame myself. My teammates are young. I don't want them to find out how it feels to lose a season for the first time while I'm here. I want them to realize that the next two months have the chance to be the best time of their lives."
And when this wild five-year ride does finally come to an end for Darnell Gant, he'll be prepared to embark a new and larger journey away from the University of Washington.
"I'm almost ready to move forward with my life," he says. "Right now, our season means everything, but I'm also excited for the next step."