Justin Hardy, the Washington University in St. Louis basketball forward whose courage inspired players and fans nationwide, died on Sunday, May 29, 2022 of stomach cancer. He was 22.
Pat Juckem, men’s basketball head coach, said Hardy was a leader whose love for the game was only surpassed by his love for his teammates.
“We feel Justin’s presence all of the time,” Juckem said. “From the moment he stepped foot on this campus, he has been a pillar both on and off the floor. No matter what was happening on the scoreboard – and we had plenty of success – we felt like every day was a win because we were in it together.”
Hardy was raised in the Chicago suburb of St. Charles and earned his degree in finance and accounting from Olin Business School in 3 1/2 years in December. He learned last spring that he had Stage 4 stomach cancer, a devastating and rare diagnosis for someone so young. Early rounds of chemotherapy left Hardy sapped. He lost 50 pounds and resigned himself to sitting out his final season. But when doctors gave Hardy the go-ahead to play, Hardy decided he would do everything in his power to help the Bears reach the NCAA Tournament. The team had advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The entire 2020-2021 season was canceled.
“At some point I had to come to terms,” Hardy told Stu Durando, basketball reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This is my life now and one day it changed forever. If I want to live life, I have to choose to put my best foot forward and attack it with a positive mentality. Someone said, ‘Positivity kills cancer.’ I don’t feel happy with the situation, but I do with where I am in life.”
Hardy helped lead the Bears during their 13-game win streak and scored 28 points, a career high, in two separate games. Hardy also was a leader in three-pointers and free throws. He was named first-team All-UAA (University Athletic Association) and second-team NABC (National Association Basketball Coaches) All-District 8. Chancellor Andrew D. Martin was among his many fans.
“Justin lived like he played basketball, meeting each moment with uncommon determination and hope,” Martin said. “As we grieve alongside the Hardy family, we also thank them for the gifts that Justin brought to his teammates and friends at WashU. Our community is forever changed by his legacy of love and strength.”
Teammate and close friend Jack Nolan certainly has been.
“Everyone knows Justin’s incredible story about how he kept playing,” Nolan said. “But what changed me in so many ways was everything he did off the court. How, after a life-changing diagnosis, he became a better …….