Coach Hardeman gives insight on the team and the upcoming season.
With basketball season approaching, head coach T.J. Hardeman and the Azusa Pacific University women’s basketball team look to continue their success from the last two seasons. The ultimate goal for this season—winning it all.
During the offseason, the team took a tour of the Philippines to not only compete but complete acts of service in the community. The team played against top universities as well as the Olympic team. The service projects that the team served in ranged from feeding the homeless, hosting basketball clinics and helping an orphanage.
“It gave them a good sense of being the Lord’s hands and feet…plus playing really good basketball, I think really helped bring us together,” said Hardeman.
With that impactful offseason, the team looks to continue the upward trajectory they’ve been on since joining Division II NCAA basketball.
In 2018 and 2021, the team made it to the Elite Eight. For the 2021-2022 season, the team finished 25-4 and were PacWest Champions. Last season, the team finished with a 26-5 record and repeated as PacWest champs.
When asked about making it to the championship round and winning it, Hardeman simply said “We’re due.” He believes the team is ready to take that big step.
The team’s daily goals for the season include “protecting the house” by being undefeated at home, not being out hustled, staying mentally tough on the road and in the best physical shape.
What makes this team special to Hardeman is their unselfishness. “They’re very team-oriented. They don’t care who’s getting the points of the rebounds…They genuinely like seeing their teammates being successful,” applauded Hardeman.
Another strong aspect of the team is the returning players and depth of the roster. There are 11 returning players from last season. Some veterans among the returning players include fifth-year players Paige Uyehara and Molly Whitmore, and fourth-year players Amayah Kirkman and Erika Kelly.
The addition of four freshmen and a junior transfer has helped add depth to the roster. Hardeman believes the experience and mixture of young players will be the main strength of the team as they enter a challenging schedule.
Nonconference games will feature matchups against GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) and CCAA (California Collegiate Athletic Association) teams who are favored to be top three in their respective conferences.
“Those will be tough games. Just pre-league will let us know where we stand in the region,” regarded Hardeman.
League games will also be a good challenge. Biola, a rivalry game, will always show up, Dominican has been a tough opponent recently and Point Loma has improved this upcoming season.
“One of the fun things about our league is that almost every team, if you don’t play your best game, they can beat you. If we play our best game, there’s not a team we can’t beat,” Hardeman said.
Now the team will demand the best and plan for the best as they enter into the season to take the big step.
Their season officially kicks off Friday, Oct. 27 at Midnight Madness. The first game of the season will take place on Nov. 3 against CSU Pueblo in Lubbock, TX. Their first home game will be Nov. 17 against Seattle Pacific.