DAY 30 (Aug. 30): The Hardeman Heritage
The Azusa Pacific women’s basketball program picked up three recruits for the 2012-13 season. One of those three has a familiar name, a name that is known from Azusa Pacific, Westmont, Biola, and the rest of the original Golden State Athletic Conference. The name is Hardeman, and the recruit, Kelly, is the niece of the team’s current head coach T.J. Hardeman.
Basketball and family have been intertwined in the Hardeman household for years. As we found out during the Cougars’ championship run in 2011, family is at the core of the Azusa Pacific women’s basketball program. Hardeman (T.J.) had all four of his children play collegiate basketball. His daughter Katie has multiple records at Westmont. His other daughter Heidi played at Biola, where she met her husband, Dan Ploog , who has been an assistant for T.J. at Azusa Pacific since he took over the once irrelevant program and turned it into the power it is today. His two brothers, Todd and Tom, work at Faith Academy in the Philippines where Hardeman went to school as a child and where Kelly was a three-sport athlete. Now with the newest edition to the Cougar family already being a member of the Hardeman family, it begs the question: where did they all come from?
Well it all began in the post-depression era where T.J.’s father, Tine, was one of 10 children in a migrant worker household. Like most kids Tine played hookie a time or two. But it wasn’t school he was ditching. It was actually the destination during his escapes from his alcoholic father. Instead of sleeping in he would wake early to ensure that he could get to class before his father got a hold of him. Every day he did that he knowing he wouldn’t return home to hugs and kisses, but more like spankings and switches.
The monotony of punishment and dealing with an alcoholic father were enough to drive Tine to live on his own at a young age. In high school he found refuge in a somewhat distant relative’s garage, where he worked every day just to survive.
“My dad worked his whole life. He didn’t have any friends or money, but he worked so hard because he didn’t want to grow up and be ignorant like his dad,” said T.J. “He knew that every day he went to school he’d come home and get paddled.”
As a freshman Tine, who was pushing the scales at 135 pounds on his 6-3 frame, got a pair of gifts from his high school’s basketball coach. The gifts were a basketball and a key to the gym. Tine instantly fell in love with the game and with nowhere else to go became the definition of a gym rat. With aspirations of playing for John Wooden at UCLA Tine worked and worked.
At that same time his uncle, who helped bring him to the Lord at a church in Long Beach, presented him a deal; offering to pay for his first year of college if he could graduate high school. So his efforts continued to where he was being looked at by college teams, but the only place he wanted to be was in Westwood. Unfortunately his grades didn’t agree.
His uncle mentioned Westmont, saying that it would be a good place to play and learn more about the Bible. So off he went.
After a season in Santa Barbara Tine, still with an unmatched work ethic, traveled up to Oregon in the summer to make money as a logger. Then tragedy struck when he was involved in a massive accident where a giant log broke through and knocked him into a ravine, breaking his back and leg. But the disaster turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Two days after the incident he received a letter from the U.S. Army informing him that he had been drafted. With the severity of his injury threatening his ability to walk again, the Army quickly released him from his responsibility.
“The doctors said he would be lucky to even walk again and then he got the letter that he was drafted,” said T.J. “Obviously he wasn’t going to the war with his injury, so at that point he vowed that if he ever walked again he’d give his basketball abilities to the Lord,” said T.J.
Two years later (1955) Tine was not only walking, but starring at Westmont. He earned NAIA All-American honorable mention recognition after being a top-10 scorer in the nation. From there he joined a collegiate all-star missionary team that toured the Orient. Then in 1958 his hospital-bed vow would be put to its biggest test when the Los Angeles Lakers invited him for a try-out to play alongside the likes of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.
He chose not to attend.
Instead he decided to move to Manila, Philippines with his wife Jan and his two-year old son T.J. to serve at Faith Academy. In doing so he left his high school teaching job in Santa Barbara for an unpaid coaching and teaching position, holding true to his promise. He stayed there for all but one year, when he served as the interim coach at Westmont in T.J.’s first season in 1975.
“When he was coaching at Westmont he said he would stay if God provided a replacement for him at Faith Academy. When no replacement came he knew where God wanted him to be,” said T.J.
So Tine returned and hasn’t looked back. In an L.A. times article he explained the decision.
““I’ve never been sorry,” he said. “I could have [eventually] been with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. They were my heroes at that time. But I’ve had a fantastic life and I’ve never regretted it.”
Tine said his decision was motivated by his desire to help people who help others.”
“My father has an amazing testimony. He was really brought to his knees by God and has touched so many lives because of it,” said T.J.
Two of his sons have followed in Tine’s footsteps in the Philippines as T.J.’s brother Tom serves as the superintendent of schools at Faith Academy, while Tom, Kelly’s dad, coaches basketball there.
There is also another T.J. (Todd Junior) Hardeman playing basketball at Faith Academy, and who knows, maybe he’ll join the party at Azusa Pacific when he graduates.
But for now Kelly Hardeman will do, and fittingly her first game will be an exhibition with Westmont on Nov. 8.