When she’s suiting up for Purdue a year from now, it’s likely that Cassidy Hardin will be able to focus solely on doing what shooting guards do.
At Center Grove, where she’s usually the tallest player in the lineup at 5-foot-10, Hardin doesn’t have that luxury.
The senior has been asked to do a little bit of everything for the Trojans this season, and she’s delivered — helping the team finish the first half of the season with a 10-2 record.
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First-year coach Kevin Stuckmeyer had high expectations for the Indiana Junior All-Star that he inherited, and he said that Hardin has exceeded them.
“She’s done so many little things that have contributed to the big accolades,” Stuckmeyer said. “All the simple stuff we talk about that goes unnoticed by the average fan, beyond the scoring, beyond the name-in-the-newspaper type of stuff, she takes care of all of that.”
The scoring, of course, is always there — Hardin leads the Trojans with 18.2 points per game, including a season-high 31 in a loss at No. 3 Pike earlier this month. She’s already made good on 42 3-point baskets, and she’s connecting at an 84 percent clip from the foul line.
In a game at Martinsville on Dec. 12, Hardin recorded her 1,000th career point. She has 1,036 heading into Thursday night’s game against Terre Haute North in the first round of Columbus North’s holiday tournament.
But it’s in the other, less noticeable areas where Hardin might be making the biggest impact. She’s second on the team in rebounding (4.4 per game) — and her defense has been pivotal for a Center Grove team that ranks seventh in Class 4A with just 36.4 points allowed per contest.
Hardin has a team-best 35 steals through 12 games — and against a loaded schedule full of teams with big and talented post players, she’s done an admirable job of punching above her weight class as a defender in the paint.
“She’s a very underrated defender,” Stuckmeyer said. “She’s really good on that wing, being up the line, and really good off the ball seeing rotations and being able to take rotations away. She does a good job of getting deflections. Her interior defense is really at a high level — what we call walling up and just kind of sealing someone, not letting them score.”
Hardin probably won’t be tasked with defending anybody on the block in college, but she said she believes that having had to face that challenge in high school has been beneficial.
“It’s good for me,” she said. “I’m getting stronger, and it’s making me a better player because of it.”
The key now for Hardin and the Trojans will be sustaining that strength. After a 13-3 start last season, the team lost six of its last seven games, including its sectional opener.
Hardin is hopeful that Center Grove will have a bit more staying power down the stretch this time despite facing a schedule that includes such juggernauts as Carmel, North Central and Lawrence North.
“I believe that we can beat any given team on our schedule,” she said, “as long as we play our game and play hard and get the little things done.”
In other words, exactly what Hardin has been doing all season.
A glance at Cassidy Hardin’s statistics this season:
Scoring;18.2 ppg (1st on team)
Rebounding;4.4 rpg (2nd)
Assists;2.2 apg (2nd)
Steals;2.9 spg (1st)
Free throw %;84 (1st)