For all the recognition that club-level volleyball receives in the Four Corners, Preston Hardy certainly did his part to boost exposure for his own ability in a different sport on a hardwood floor.
And he did so through clubs not even remotely close to his little La Plata County hometown. Bayfield's senior big man, officially measured at almost 6'7", spent incredible chunks of the last three springs and summers hooping, AAU-style, with the Denver Chaos as well as the Albuquerque Danny Granger D1 Ambassadors.
Throw in regular practices inside BHS gymnasium during the CHSAA season, and time spent on his own inside the "old" Bayfield Middle School gymnasium and other places-including BHS classrooms, where he has earned first team Academic All-State distinction each of his first three seasons-and one can see why an emerging program like NCAA Division II Colorado Christian University was interested.
"I was never the most athletic or anything but I've worked hard at it, no matter what I do," Hardy said Nov. 12 as he signed a national letter-of-intent to play at CCU. "And of course I've had some great teammates always pushing-we're always pushing each other. So I think that's what's really given me an edge, teammates who push me."
Many of them were inside the BHS Cafetorium to witness the event.
"We're teammates, but we're also best friends," said Hardy. "We've played together since fourth grade, and now we've grown up and it's our last year, senior year, so it's fun to see that."
"It's 'Where does the time go?' I mean, he started playing basketball when he was in kindergarten at the YMCA, and just through the years he just constantly fell in love with the game," said Preston's father, Garth Hardy.
"We are thrilled to have Preston joining our basketball family here at CCU," Cougars head coach Kevin Lubbers said via e-mail. "Preston is a tremendous young man and fits in great with our team academically, athletically, and as a person."
Added dad: "The coaches there are just phenomenal. Real personable, have the best interests of the players. And the team, they're just a great bunch of guys-it's like a 'brotherhood.' So we look forward to Preston going up there and getting better as he gets older and has that type of coaching!"
"Preston is a quality young man and this is a well-earned achievement for him and his family," Lehnus said in a statement. "The signing today reflects his strong desire to excel and the commitment he has given to the game."
"Of course I'm absolutely excited to make this official, know that I'm going to CCU," Preston Hardy said. "But I'm definitely excited about the load it took off, and how now I can focus on the season.
"Focus on my team, rather than focusing on what I want to do in the future-it's all 'team' now, and hopefully we'll accomplish something big here pretty soon!"