BallinEurope scored an exclusive interview with Ayron Hardy, a graduate of Jacksonville University currently in the midst of his rookie professional campaign with Leicester Riders. The former Dolphin racked up the accolades and trophies in his four years at JU, getting named to the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman team in 2008 and the 2010 Pre-Season Atlantic All-Conference Team, plus a nod as the Atlantic Sun Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. His senior year saw him average 12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
For the Riders in 2011-12, Hardy is enjoying an star-level year, including a ridiculous 20-point, 15-rebound, 13-assist, four-block performance against Sheffield Sharks. Hardy chatted with BiE’s British basketball specialist Sam Chadwick about his toughest opponents, why he chose to test the waters of the British Basketball League and the internet-based voting which has him in the lead for league MVP.
BallinEurope: You played at a solid college in the ‘States and you had some tough opposition. Who is the best player you have had to go up against?
Ayron Hardy: The toughest player I have played against is Evan Turner, who played for the Ohio St. Buckeyes and now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers. [Note: In the OSU-JU matchup, Turner finished with 17 points on 63% shooting from the field, adding eight rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks in just 36 minutes of action. The 17th-ranked Buckeyes went on to win 81-68.]
You’re now playing in the British Basketball League for Leicester Riders; what made you choose the BBL and more specifically what was it about Leicester that convinced you to sign there?
One of the key reasons I signed here was because of the similar languages. It was an easy transition for my first year of international ball.
You played alongside Lehmon Colbert in college, what’s it like playing against him now you’re a professional?
Playing against him is always competitive and fun at the same time. I played against him in practice every day for three years so I’m kind of used to guarding him. I want to win and beat him and during the whole game we talk back and forth to each other.
The season is almost over and the playoffs are coming into focus. What’s your team goal this season?
The team goal is to win the Championship. We missed out on other trophies this year so we have to get this one. [Note: The Riders currently sit in four place in the BBL and will likely play the Glasgow Rocks in the first round of the playoffs. The Riders lost out on aggregate points in the BBL Cup semifinals to the Newcastle Eagles, while they were eliminated in the group stages of the BBL Trophy despite an equal record with Milton Keynes Lions.]
You have a lot of new faces at Leicester and on the court it looks like you all bond really well. Is there someone who took you under their wing as a mentor?
Well, mostly the veteran guys did, like Barry Lamble and Yorick Williams and Drew Sullivan and also Robert Youngblood when he was on our team.
At the beginning of the season people thought Andrew Sullivan would be the BBL MVP and lead this team to a championship – now it turns out he is supporting you in the BBL Fans’ Race to MVP. What is it like having that kind of support from your team?
I honestly don’t feel like I could have accomplished any of this without my teammates and the blessing of God. They are the reason we have made it this far and why I’m even mentioned in the category.
What’s next for you personally? More BBL or is mainland Europe calling your name?
I’m not sure yet, but I have all of my options open to the best opportunity for me. My main goal is still to play in the NBA.
What has been the game of your career so far?
The game of my career would have to be the triple-double against the Sheffield Sharks.
Lastly, what advice would you give to younger guys trying to make it in the NCAA or professional basketball?
The advice I would give younger guys would be keep God first and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something … You just have to keep dreaming big like you never see obstacles that could stop you from achieving your goal and to believe in yourself.