Hardin a pleasant find for UK women's team

Published: Oct. 28, 2016 at 6:34 PM EDT
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Jessica Hardin walked-on to the Kentucky women’s basketball team this summer. Her talent quickly began turning heads, including that of her own coach.

Misfortune can sometime reap opportunity, and this offseason when the UK women's basketball program had several players transfer, Matthew Mitchell began searching campus for a few replacements.

"I think that was the biggest thing for me was that this good of an athlete and as good of a basketball player was going to school at Kentucky," Mitchell said.

That's where Mitchell found senior communications major Jessica Hardin.

"It's amazing that someone like that was just going to school here," he said.

Hardin, a former Kentucky all-state selection out of Wayne Co., was recruited to Bellarmine out of high school, but after just one season decided to transfer to UK to focus on academics.

"This opportunity just kind of showed up,” Hardin said. “So this summer I started working out."

Hardin was very familiar with one of the current players on the UK roster -- Bell Co. native Maci Morris. The two played AAU together but battled it out during their high school careers.

“Me and Jess, we went at it when we played each other. It's was a friendly competition,” Morris said

"We did have some pretty good battles," Hardin said.

"We had an incident one time in a game and I ended up having to go to the hospital,” Hardin said. “My tooth went through my lip.”

"I accidently took her out, and she went to the emergency room,” Morris remembered. “But we're still friends after that."

And the news got better for Hardin, after walking-on to the team, Mitchell was so impressed with her ability that he offered her a scholarship.

"I was watching her practice one day this summer, and I was like. ‘I don't know why I didn't sign you when you were coming out of high school.’ That was bad on my part.”

So does Hardin give her coach grief for not recruiting her out of high school?

"No, I haven't said anything about that,” she said. “I'm here now and that's all that matters. So I'm excited."

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