Fifth-year senior Cassidy Hardin has found her role with Purdue women’s basketball this season and is thriving in it.
“I think first and foremost, my role is to be a leader to all the younger kids on the team and kind of be a role model by example, but also the vocal leader. Kind of the bridge between the coaches and the players,” Hardin said.
Hardin has been with the Boilermakers for longer than anyone on the roster and knows her veteran presence is key for the team’s success. Hardin embraces the leadership role that she has taken in the program over the last two years.
“I think a lot of them look to me, just for poise,” Hardin said, “If they don’t know what they’re doing, they’ll ask me questions or if I start to see them kind of panicking in a way, I guess, I serve as that person that could kind of calm them down.”
What Hardin brings to the table makes a big impact on her teammates according to head coach Katie Gearlds.
“When she wasn’t shooting it well, the kid just took it too personally. Like I’m letting my team down,” Gearlds said. “I just tell her relax and have fun, but that was contagious. You see her take some responsibility and then everybody else kind of starts to feel the same way.”
Not only did Gearlds compliment Hardin’s leadership qualities, but so did senior guard Abbey Ellis, who is in her second year playing with the fifth-year sharpshooter.
“Cassidy brings like that senior [presence], calm and collected, she knows what she’s doing. She’s so reliable on offense and defense,” Abbey Ellis said of her teammate.
Hardin’s leadership goes deeper than the basketball court. Ellis says that Hardin is someone all of her teammates can count on outside of basketball as well.
“Off the court, she’s like our mom. So you know we love her as a friend but also a teammate, she keeps our heads together,” Ellis said.
The Badgersville, Indiana native wasn’t always the vocal leader that her teammates see now. Hardin’s growth as a leader both on and off the court is something that has taken time.
“I came in here and I wasn’t very talkative and you know, I was a leader in high school, but I didn’t really know what that meant. That’s a whole different level here,” Hardin said.
Hardin came to Purdue as an Indiana All-Star from Center Grove High School, where she became one of the most lethal three-point shooters in state history. She graduated with the eighth most three point field goals with 260 during her career. As her time in West Lafayette draws closer to the end, Hardin took a look back at just how far she has come since she arrived on campus in 2018.
“I think I’ve grown a lot since I came in here my freshman year. I definitely didn’t know what was ahead of me,” Hardin said, “I didn’t know all the obstacles, the highs and the lows that I was gonna go through but I know that I’m stronger for it.”
Hardin has had a lot of different experiences in West Lafayette on the court. She had to fight through a disastrous 7-16 season in 2020-21, the coach who recruited her abruptly retiring and the coaching change that subsequently followed.
Now, she is a big part of the group looking to bring success back to the program. Hardin is averaging 7.5 points per game on a career-best 36.8% shooting percentage from the field this season.
Despite the strides she’s made on the court and an increased role with the team, Hardin believes it is her leadership that she has improved on the most during her time in West Lafayette.
“I think that that’s the biggest place where I’ve seen growth and I’m really thankful for Purdue for that opportunity,” Hardin said.
The Boilermakers will need Hardin’s leadership as they prepare for the final stretch of the regular season.
Hardin is aiming to help lead the the Boilermakers as they look to snap a six year NCAA Tournament drought. Those tournament hopes will be heavily impacted by the next two weeks for Katie Gearlds’ team. Purdue has matchups against No. 22 Illinois, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 6 Indiana coming up.
Head coach Katie Gearlds recognizes the difficulties that present themselves in the next three games, but big conference tests are nothing new to the Boilermakers.
“No game in our league is easy,” Gearlds said, “Last time I looked that little number next to your name didn’t win you a ballgame. Right?”
Hardin and her teammates share the same mindset as their coach. The upcoming gauntlet is daunting for some, but the Boilermakers are excited for the opportunity to prove to people who they are.
“It might be a little intimidating going up against all these great teams in a row, but I think it’s a good challenge for us,” Hardin said.
The Boilermakers are approaching their toughest stretch of the season like they hold a clean slate.
“Coach told us one game at a time focusing on who we’re playing or our [scouting report] is and you know, just focusing on winning, but we know we have a tough road ahead of us,” Abbey Ellis said.
Picking up a handful of big time wins would go a long way in the NCAA Tournament resume of the Boilermakers. Purdue is currently 13-6 and 4-5 in Big Ten play while in the “first four out” according to ESPN’s bracketologist Charlie Creme. Cassidy Hardin’s leadership will be a driving force behind a potential appearance for Purdue.