‘I just love what I do:’ Smith’s Hardy wins NCHSAA honor
By Earl Vaughan Jr.
Dee Hardy is still shaking her head after learning she was Cumberland County’s first winner of the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s Toby Webb Award.
The award was created in 2006 and honors a coach who has helped to support and encourage high school athletes.
Hardy, a former star athlete at both E.E. Smith and UNC-Pembroke, has spent 34 years at Smith with a long resume of success. She’s coached girls’ basketball, volleyball and track and field.
She has sent more than 70 of her girls’ basketball players on to play in college. Her 2020 Smith team made the finals of the state 3-A tournament, but when the championship was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Golden Bulls were forced to share the state title with defending state champ and Western 3-A winner Southeastern Guilford.
Hardy is a member of the Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame and had the gym floor at Smith named for her.
Despite all that, she’s amazed no one else from Fayetteville has won the award. “I know many coaches came through prior to me who are deserving of it,’’ she said. “It’s a blessing. At the end of the day, I know I put in a lot of years. It’s good to be recognized for what you do.’’
While she admits she’s closer to the end of her coaching career, Hardy said she has set no timetable for when she plans to retire.
“I just love what I do,’’ she said. “I’m pretty sure if I were in another place that I would still love it. I’ve never experienced anything else. This is pretty much all that I know.’’
Hardy said nothing has ever crossed her path that caused her to look at moving to another school or doing anything else. She came to Smith as part of a military family and said that, over the years, it’s grown to have a neighborhood feeling.
“Now I am coaching my players’ kids,’’ she said. She knows grandmothers, aunts and mothers of players. For her, it’s become a home away from home.
She’s also witnessed major changes in the game, like the addition of the 3-point shot and the controversial switch from using the same basketball as the boys to a smaller one that’s said to be easier for girls to dribble and control.
She thinks today’s players are different, not as accustomed to spending time playing on their own. For that reason, she wonders if they have the same endurance as players of old.
Of course, some ideas about player safety have changed. She noted taking water breaks used to be considered a sign of weakness. Now hydration breaks are part of any regular practice.
“If I get to a point I feel I’m not being productive and don’t have that fire and energy, that will be the time I walk away,’’ she said.
For now, she enjoys seeing young people come in with eyes wide open and full of fire, ready to soak in what she plans to teach them about basketball.
“I love young people being successful,’’ she said. “I approach basketball as life. It’s good to see young people come out of that and be productive citizens. That’s what love is.’’
• A total of 21 Cumberland County high school wrestlers have qualified for the state 3-A and 4-A individual wrestling championships on Saturday, June 26.
The 4-A tournament is at Kernersville Glenn High School while the 3-A tournament is at Eastern Guilford High School.
Competition in both tournaments will begin at 9 a.m.
The following wrestlers qualified for the tournament after finishing in the top four in this week’s regional competition:
106 – 4th, Jerald Brown, Gray’s Creek.
113 – 1st, Dakota Little, Westover; 2nd, Samuel Aponte, Cape Fear
120 – 2nd, Christian Rothrock, Douglas Byrd
126 – 1st, Richard Williams, Gray’s Creek; 2nd, Christian Coto, Terry Sanford
145 – 1st, Calan Staub, Cape Fear
152 – 4th, Dawson Travis, Cape Fear
160 – 3rd, Memphis Naugle, Terry Sanford
170 – 2nd, Jaden Paul, Cape Fear
195 – 3rd, Marcus Williams, Westover
220 – 3rd, Remington Workman, Westover
285 – 1st, Garrett Crockett, Gray’s Creek; 3rd, Zyon McEachin, Douglas Byrd; 4th, Vincent Valentin, Cape Fear
120- 4th, Trinity Blue, Jack Britt
160 – 1st, Joseph Lock, Jack Britt
195 – 3rd, Jaleel Parks, South View
220 – 2nd, Joshua George, South View; 3rd, Devean Thaggard, Seventy-First
285 – 3rd, Kareem Crawford, South View
• The invitational state wrestling tournament for girls will be held Saturday at Kernersville Glenn High School beginning at 10 a.m.
The following Cumberland County wrestlers are entered in the event:
Westover – 113, Ayonna McNeill; 120, Jnyia Monroe.
Pine Forest – 132, Jewel Arrowsmith; 138 – Hailie Misplay.
Jack Britt – 106, Diandra Tejada.
• Local high school golfers are busy on the summer golf tour and have been doing well.
Terry Sanford’s Ethan Paschal shot a 67 to tie for first place in qualifying for the USGA Junior Amateur at Pinehurst in July. Paschal qualified at Ironwood Golf and Country Club in Greenville.
Terry Sanford’s Spencer Barbour shot a 73 at Siler City Country Club to qualify for the Carolinas Golf Assocaition N.C. Junior Boys Championship next week.
• University of North Carolina football coach Mack Brown gave a shout-out on Twitter this week to former Tar Heel and South View standout Marcus Wall, who is currently an assistant football coach for his high school alma mater.
Brown announced that Wall is wrapping up his education at UNC this summer and is expected to earn his college degree.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Terry Sanford 8, Cape Fear 5
South View 4, Pine Forest 0
Terry Sanford 14, Union Pines 6
Northern Guilford 10, Cape Fear 0
Purnell Swett 5, South View 3
Clayton 11, Terry Sanford 0