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Senior Hardiek content to stay out of spotlight

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:31 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

There are several framed posters featuring members of the Missouri women’s basketball team hanging in the hallway near the locker room, each poster coupled with an inspirational saying from the player.

In Blair Hardiek’s poster, she is dribbling with her right hand, her body running at an angle as she slices across mid-court. “If you work hard and believe in yourself, success is inevitable,” her poster says.

Hardiek, a senior point guard, has started all but one game for the Tigers but isn’t considered one of the core group of three seniors Missouri coach Cindy Stein and the media like to highlight.

“I don’t really think it matters too much who’s in the limelight or whose name is popping up like all over the newspaper,” Hardiek said. “As long as we’re doing good things on the basketball court, I don’t think it matters whose name comes up.”

After sitting for much of her first two seasons of college basketball, Hardiek has played in the shadows of others for the last of her two years. In her junior season, Hardiek backed up senior point guard LaToya Bond, a WNBA selection.

“Everyone from our team was the high school star,” Hardiek said. “You didn’t sit down. So then all of the sudden you come to college and you find yourself on the sidelines a little more than you would like. And that’s a huge adjustment.”

This season, her five points-per-game average is tough to compare to the double-figure averages of fellow seniors EeTisha Riddle, Tiffany Brooks or Carlynn Savant.

But don’t think that a lack of points equals a lack of effort. She was rewarded with the Hustle Award at the end of both her sophomore and junior seasons, and the awards are something she’s proud of.

“One thing you can do right is work hard every day,” Hardiek said. “It’s like shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t work hard. Especially if your shots aren’t falling or your game’s a little off. At least you can’t question someone’s work ethic.”

She plays about 22 minutes per game this season, sharing playing time with freshman Toy Richbow and another senior, Marchele Campbell. Hardiek says she doesn’t resent the substitutions but always wants to get back on the court.

“There’s nothing you can do about it, like, that’s how I see it,” Hardiek said. “I’m doing what I can, busting my butt off, but it’s someone else’s turn to check in, then I’m going to do what I can to cheer them on.”

Richbow has seen the most playing time of all the freshmen, playing in all but two games and averaging 12.6 minutes a game. Hardiek said she is already a smart point guard and is learning quickly.

“The minute she lets her confidence waver, she’s playing older point guards, that’s like a shark on bait,” Hardiek said. “I tell her to be confident. She doesn’t really need that many words. She’s strong-nosed and she’s observing, so I think she’ll be just fine.”

As a freshman, it was hard for Hardiek to adjust to college and Stein’s system of basketball. Hardiek said the seniors that were on the team at the time played an entirely different style than the freshmen – Hardiek, Savant and Riddle, especially – who were

trying to integrate themselves.

“There was kind of this huge line between the freshmen to the seniors,” Hardiek said. “I don’t know why, but the transition was just huge for every one of our freshmen. It was a huge eye-opener. I talked to a lot of freshmen this year, and they said the transition’s been pretty easy.”

Hardiek and Riddle were roommates, and the freshmen all lived in the same residence hall. At night, as they each lay in their beds, Hardiek said she and Riddle would discuss the day, practice and life. Those discussions sometimes came with tears.

“It was so comforting just bouncing things off each other,” Hardiek said. “We were good for each other. We were total opposites when we came in. I’m like a small town girl. I like to listen to country and rock, I’ll listen to rap, whatever. She’s like, strictly rap. It was two totally different cultures coming together.”

Hardiek has proven she works hard in the classroom, too. She has taken heavy semesters of 17 and 18 hours in the past and has taken summer school courses. She will graduate in May with a degree in communications and said when basketball season is over, it will be time to relax.

She said she plans to go skiing and to Las Vegas. She said she will go to Europe on a trip by herself. Hardiek even has plans to travel to China and teach for a while. Then it will be time to find a job or go to graduate school, whatever option is most favorable. She’s ready.

“We all get along so great, you meet a lot of friends, and just like joking around and being here in the locker room everyday is just stuff that you’ll miss,” Hardiek said. “It’s just another stage in your life, another page being turned. It’s been good.”


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