This is the fifth in a series of profiles on the six finalists for the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award, which will be announced March 20 at the Free Press.
Amauri Hardy’s adaptability was a boon for the North Farmington boys basketball team while it went through a rebuild this season.
The Raiders graduated 12 seniors from last year’s team, and coach Todd Negoshian knew he needed someone to help mold the new starters into reliable players in his system. He needed a leader.
He got one in Hardy, who wrapped up the regular season as one of six finalists for the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award in late February.
The other finalists for the award, given to the state’s best player and chosen by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, were Detroit Cornerstone’s Jamal Cain, Detroit East English Village’s Greg Elliott, Grand Rapids Christian’s Xavier Tillman, Kalamazoo Central’s Isaiah Livers and Powers North Central’s Jason Whitens.
North Farmington (11-9) ended its season with a 58-42 loss to Orchard Lake St Mary’s in its district tournament opener March 6.
“Amauri never once got frustrated this season when knowing it’d be a long road for us to get kids where we needed them to be,” said Negoshian, whose team finished as Class A runner-up in 2015-16. “He handled it better than I did at times, and he helped talk to and teach our younger kids. I think the more he became a leader like that, the better it was for everyone else. I feel the more you teach, the more you can understand as a player.”
OTHER MR. BASKETBALL PROFILES:
Versatility sets apart Michigan State basketball signee Xavier Tillman
Mr. Basketball finalist, U-M commit Isaiah Livers reaching for ‘Level 5’
How Mr. Basketball finalist Jamal Cain became better defender
East English Village coach: Greg Elliott deserves Mr. Basketball award
Hardy, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard who is committed to Oklahoma State, averaged 29 points, seven rebounds, six steals and six assists.
The three-star recruit left Southfield High after his sophomore season, when the Bluejays looked at him as the go-to scoring threat. He then transferred into a crowded backcourt at North Farmington.
While the Raiders enjoyed a 24-3 finish last season, the offense didn’t run through Hardy. He had to learn how to create shots without the ball in his hands and learned how to be a leader watching those 12 seniors manufacture a tournament run.
He developed further by playing travel basketball and making college visits. His leadership was crucial when North Farmington lost seven of its first 10 games to open the season.
“What has helped is I picked it up basically watching college players and going to practices and watching how they talk at the next level,” Hardy said. “If you want to be a leader in this world, you got to start kind of directing when you have a chance to direct.
“I just felt this year was going to be a load on my shoulders, so I prepared for it to better myself as a basketball player and learn how to communicate with people and overcome obstacles. Getting off to a hard start this year is one of the things we had to overcome.”
Hardy did most of his leading in practices. When drills weren’t executed correctly, he quickly jumped at the opportunity to teach his teammates how to do them the right way.
If the offense wasn’t running smoothly, he did something about it.
“In practice, whenever we stop and have to teach, there are times when I’ve had to correct things and when I’m done, he has already added on to it,” Negoshian said. “There are times when I got so upset at the team for doing certain things that he’d step up before I got going because he knew we were doing things wrong, and he’d take the blame for it as a senior leader. He would say, ‘Sorry, coach. I told them to do that. It’s my fault.’ You know he’s lying to you, but how can you be mad at him when he’ll stick up for another teammate and take the blame? The kid shows a lot of leadership.”
Hardy often did that because he wanted to create a winning experience for his teammates in practice, something the heralded senior class before him did when he was a new player on the team.
“It has happened so often in practice that it has just become the norm,” Negoshian said. “If there’s a dead ball in practice, he’s already talking and communicating on the floor. Off the floor, he’s got an arm around the young kids and helping out. He’s always reassuring them, ‘It’s not always going to be this rough, I promise.'”
Hardy knows the leadership experience gained this season will only help him once he gets to Oklahoma State.
“Coming in as a point guard, it’s going to help me lead the team there,” he said. “If they put the ball in my hands as a freshman, I’ll be able to get results. When you’re looking at teams and see the point guard, it’s like a quarterback. The team is looking at you, and everything goes through you. If you don’t give them results, they’ll replace you. So stepping up my leadership was a stepping stone for when I get to the college level. I know I can do the same there.”
On the court, his biggest improvement over the course of his career has been his 3-point shooting – shooting 45% this season.
The other part of Hardy’s game that drew interest from Division I teams has been his ability to get to the rim and score up close.
“You’d be hard pressed to find a guy who can get to the basket as hard as he can and as strong as he can, and he can shoot a pull-up with a mid-range shot better than a lot of guys, too,” Negoshian said.
“I think OSU is getting a better player than they think. They know the kind of player they’re getting, but they’re also getting one of my all-time favorites, from a leadership standpoint, because of the way he competes and puts time in. He’s a kid who loves to win. He’s willing to sacrifice anything he has to for the benefit of the team.”