Azusa Pacific true freshman forward Kelly Hardeman grew up in the Philippines. She attended Faith Academy and chose APU as her university of choice.
With her uncle, T.J. Hardeman, as the women’s basketball team head coach, who could blame her?
The Hardemans are a family of missionaries. When T.J.’s father, Tine, moved to the Philippines to be a missionary, the family stayed in the country. Each of Tine’s sons (T.J., Todd, and Tom) went to Faith Academy, and both Todd and Tom currently remain in the Philippines.
T.J. stayed in the U.S. to continue coaching collegiate women’s basketball.
Hardeman chose APU because of her uncle. She took a look at other universities such as Westmont, but the deciding factor was someone who could help her get situated in this new world.
“It was definitely hard thinking about moving away from home and moving away from my family,” Hardeman said. “Looking at colleges, I didn’t know where to go for a long time. Having my uncle here was really nice because I knew that he would look [at] me [in terms of playing time].”
Born and raised in the Philippines, it has been hard for Hardeman to get used to the United States because it is so much different than home. However, she is very thankful to have people who will help her with the process of getting used to things and feeling comfortable.
“My roommate [Lauren Gilster] has been pretty helpful,” Hardeman said. “She always tells me when I say words that aren’t normal, and she helps me break [maintain awareness of] the social cues. I don’t look like I’m from another country, so it’s definitely weird. There are things I do and ways I feel and ways I view life that I don’t think will ever leave me. Living in a missionary community, I have definitely learned to adapt, so that has definitely been something I have taken with me here.”
One of Hardeman’s qualities of the court is gratefulness for everything that she has. It frustrates her when she sees people who have a lot yet cannot be thankful for it.
“People complaining a lot is something that’s hard for me to deal with,” Hardeman said. “Complaining about things that make me wonder, ‘Why do you even care?’ [I’m used to] being surrounded by people in the Philippines who are so poor yet so happy, and people here have so much and aren’t happy with their lives.”
Faith Academy is a K-12 international school of about 500-600 students. Initially, Hardeman was scared of going to a bigger school, but when she got settled here, she was pleasantly surprised. The basketball team has helped her get accustomed to the school and has been very supportive of her.
“They [people at APU] have definitely made it feel like much more of a small school with the community, which I appreciate,” Hardeman said. “The basketball team has been really great, and it’s been a great way for me to have friends right away; it has made the transition easier.”
Hardeman has formed a special bond with this team, and they help her through struggles or times she feels homesick. They have been there for her whenever she has needed something, and this bond is one that continues to grow as time passes.
“I have come to love every one of them,” Hardeman said. “Each of them plays a different role in my life, and when I feel a certain way, I know who to come to. They have definitely gotten me through the [past] homesick stages and the still-to-come homesick stages. I’m super excited just to keep playing with them, seeing the team develop.”
Not only is life outside the court different for Hardeman; life on the court is much different for her because now there are actually other girls who are her height. In the Philippines, she was the tallest girl by a long shot, she clocks in at 6′ tall.
“All of my career, I played the post inside,” Hardeman said. “I was playing against girls who were about 5’5”, so I was big for everyone.”
This change has forced her to adapt her playing style. Instead of getting baskets in the post because she towered above the other girls, Kelly has had to adopt new skills into her game.
“Coming here, I did not shoot threes [pointers] or any outside [shots] in high school,” Hardeman said. “I did outside of practice because my dad would tell me, ‘Kelly, you are not going to be the tallest girl out there; you are going to have to develop more.’ So coming here, I have definitely learned to shoot, and something I am still developing is having the ball and having to dribble all the time.”
Hardeman has adapted well to say the least. She is currently shooting 34.7% from the three-point line and has made 42 three-pointers in 16 games. Going from not shooting at all to shooting all the time is a huge change, but Hardeman looks like a natural when she lets her shot go from her hands.
As a true freshman the way Hardeman is playing promises much more success for Cougar fans to anticipate, not only for this season, but also for the next few seasons to come.