ROANOKE, Va. – He’s been a fixture at William Fleming High School for nearly three decades, with the title of ‘Top Colonel’ for 18 years.
Boys basketball head coach, Jeffrey “Mickey” Hardy has passed on his passion for the game to some of the best talent to come from the Star City with one goal in mind.
“To make sure that they take something away from me that’s positive.”
His humble beginnings in Roanoke instilled grit in this Terrier at William Byrd High School, where Hardy proved his worth under legendary coach Roland Malone.
“He just taught us a whole lot about not only basketball but life and he was one of the main reasons I stuck with basketball, along with my uncle,” Hardy explained.
“I had an opportunity to play as a sophomore and I wanted to quit. So my uncle said, ‘You have a chance to either quit or you can come home and I can deal with you.’ So, I went ahead and finished playing basketball at that time.”
That decision led to a stellar two-year career at what was then known as Ferrum Junior College, where he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
“At one time, I was the fifth leading scorer in the country and that spoke a lot about the guys that played with me. They weren’t afraid to share the basketball and I wasn’t afraid to shoot it,” said Hardy.
Hardy would accept a scholarship and finish his playing career with Virginia Tech in the early 80s, where he faced the best players in the nation at the time, such as Virginia standout Ralph Sampson.
But when the ball stopped bouncing, Hardy’s passion turned to helping young people.
“It comes from my mother. She believes in helping people and she instilled that in all her kids. That if you have the opportunity to help someone, you need to help someone. Not hinder their growth but help them grow”
Walking the halls of William Fleming High School you’ll find countless accolades from the boys basketball program from over the years, proving Hardy’s point of helping people grow.
But, even as head coach, he is adamant about one thing.
He can’t take all the credit for himself.
Just as Michael Jordan had Scotty Pippen, Mickey Hardy has his own right-hand man, in assistant coach Marshall Ashford.
“From Durham, North Carolina. My dad got my brother and I started in baseball. So we grew up playing baseball. Actually, basketball was the last of the big 3,” said Ashford.
Ashford’s high school success landed him an opportunity in Blacksburg with the Hokies in the Mid-70s where he averaged double figures in scoring in three of his four seasons.
“My senior year at Tech, I was drafted by the Washington Bullets, a fifth-round draft pick and went to camp.”
He didn’t make the team but returned to Blacksburg in 1979. That’s when he learned more about this standout JUCO player, Jeff “Mickey” Hardy.
“I had a chance to play against him in some pickup games and so forth and that was my first foray with Coach Hardy.”
That friendship would come full circle years later when the duo would take the helm as coaches at William Fleming, where they recently reached a milestone, 300 wins.
“That’s what makes it so exciting. It just wasn’t about one player, it was about a family of guys, family of players doing what’s right,” Hardy said.
Bryan Ashford was part of the Colonels 2007 State Championship team. After graduating from Hampton University, he returned home and is now on the coaching staff with the Fleming girls program.
“I find myself sometimes saying some of the same things that Coach Hardy and my Dad say and I be like, ‘Oh My God’,” said the younger Ashford. “They’ll give you that knowledge and information to make you not only a better player but better young man. For me coaching the girls, I try to make my ladies better young women.”
Warren Craft was a standout two-sport athlete for the Colonels, who ultimately chose to play football at the University of Virginia. But the values he learned on the court, stay with him even now as an assistant football coach at his alma mater.
“It’s all about building connections, building relationships and these two coaches--Coach Ashford and Coach Hardy--did a great job building that relationship and connection early on,” Craft said.
And it all started with the connection of one dynamic duo, helping turn boys into men and preparing them for a much bigger game than basketball.
“Wins and losses can be determined on the floor, but my wins and losses are determined in life,” Hardy said.
“Hopefully we give all of our students here at Fleming, some insight into what they can become. What they can become is something in their own right,” said Ashford.