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McNeese State's Kevin Hardy slam dunks against Abilene Christian Saturday at Burton Coliseum. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

McNeese State's Kevin Hardy slam dunks against Abilene Christian Saturday at Burton Coliseum. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

McNeese: SLC's class act

Last Modified: Monday, April 14, 2014 12:08 PM

By Albert Burford / American Press

McNeese State — the Harvard of the Southland.

The university may not be trademarking that slogan anytime soon, but McNeese student-athletes certainly helped show off their scholarly prowess last week with three of the Southland Conference’s four winter sports academics awards.

Kevin Hardy, Allison Baggett and Jasmine Cornelius were all awarded student-athlete of the year awards from the SLC, which made McNeese the only active league school to receive the honor three times during the winter season.

Baggett’s award marked the fourth consecutive year a McNeese player was named the SLC Student-Athlete of the Year in women’s basketball. Allison’s older sister Ashlyn earned the title the previous three years.

It’s no coincidence the work ethic required to stay on top of school and sports runs in the family.

“Good Lord, my parents punished us if we made a ‘B,’” Baggett said. “My dad was more about going to the gym and ‘You can’t leave until you make 10 threes in a row,’ and my mom was more like, ‘If you make a ‘B’ you’re punished and you can’t go see your friends.’ They were a good team as far as making us good student-athletes.”

Baggett, a nursing major, possesses a 3.7 grade-point-average and scored 17.9 points per game, good for third-most in the Southland.

Hardy, who chose to attend McNeese rather than accept a chance from Ivy League institutions like Columbia University, was the first McNeese men’s basketball player to win the award.

“I’m honored to represent the conference,” he said. “To be the first in McNeese basketball history is an honor. Hopefully I can open the door for many other student-athletes to do the same.”

One of the biggest reasons Hardy, a St. Louis Catholic graduate, said he decided to stay in town for college was the school’s engineering program. The junior has a 3.42 GPA in electrical engineering.

Hardy is just as consistent on the basketball court as he is in the classroom. He played 35.5 minutes per game this season, more than any other player in the conference. His two steals and 4.3 assists per game were also good for third and fifth in the league, respectively.

Completing the trifecta is Cornelius, an all-conference selection who won the long jump at the SLC indoor track championships in February for the second consecutive year. The senior was the first Cowgirl to win back-to-back titles in the long jump.

Cornelius said the actual life of a successful college athlete doesn’t really fit the perception many people have in their heads.

“Keeping my priorities straight is the key,” she said. “I make sure that all my work is done first and then give it my all in track. It’s not easy like people might think.

“I have to do stuff early just so I don’t fall behind. I have a good connection with all my teachers just so they know I’m not skipping their classes, that I’m an athlete.”

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