Hardy picked McNeese over Ivy League

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

To hear others speak of Kevin Hardy you expect to be greeted by a young man wearing heavy, dark-rimmed glasses with tape holding

them together at the bridge.

Somebody who might speak a little nasal, wear his pants up a little high and have a pocket protector in the left breast pocket

and who just might be a little on the shy side.

Instead, you get a well-spoken, confident 6-foot, 2-inch slender man who looks every bit the part of a lead guard on a college

basketball program.

“I’m not a geek,” Hardy says. “Maybe some of my teammates might think I am, but I don’t look at myself that way. I’m just

a normal kid.”

Well, maybe not normal.

Hardy is the perfect combination of student-athlete.

Court wise and book smart, the junior has taken over the lead of the McNeese State basketball program.

“Kevin really leads by example,” said Cowboy head coach Dave Simmons. “He helps others on the floor and with their classes.

He is somebody a lot of people look up to.”

For good reason. Hardy is grades first, basketball second. It has always been that way with him, dating back to his high school

days down the road at St. Louis Catholic.

“School is the most important thing,” Hardy said.

It was that attitude that opened all

sorts of doors from him after high school. He could have gone just about

anywhere academically.

He even had a chance to go to an Ivy League school, with Columbia leading the way.

“You have to consider that,” Hardy said. “It was tough to pass that up, but you have to do what you think is best.”

For him, that was staying close to home and playing for McNeese.

“I am a homebody,” Hardy said. “I have two little brothers and I am able to stay in their lives. McNeese gave me the best

opportunity to play basketball and school.”

What really sold him on McNeese State was the engineering program. Simmons knows that recruited him as much as basketball.

“Probably more,” Simmons said. “Without our engineering being so good, I don’t know if he would have come here. It was our

biggest sell. That and a chance to play at home.

“We know he could have gone anywhere in the country to school academically. He could have played basketball in a few places

as well. We are just happy this was a good fit and his choice.”

It is not always easy being both smart and athletic. Hardy admits finding enough time in a busy day can be tough.

You have to practice to be good and study to be smart. And there are only so many waking hours to cram all that in and still

have some type of social life.

“That is extremely difficult,” Hardy said of the balancing act. “You have to find a common medium. You have to allow yourself

enough time to hit the books but also enough time to keep up in the gym.

“They both take up so much time. I just try to make it work.”

And that he has been able to do mainly through hard work.

“Kevin wants to get better every year and he does that,” Simmons said. “He loves being tested both in class and in basketball.”

It is that challenge that keeps Hardy going.

“He is very competitive,” Simmons said. “He is an easy guy to work with, too. He comes to practice, does his work, knows what

he needs to do to get better and does it.

“He is self-motivated.”Hardy is also realistic. While he dreams of NBA riches, he continues to bank on his brain.

“It is always in the back of my mind,” he said of pro basketball. “But it is education first. That is what is guaranteed,

getting my degree.”

You would expect him to say nothing else, just maybe saying it with those glasses on.