Washington University basketball player Justin Hardy dies of stomach cancer at the age of 22

ST. CHARLES, Illinois — Justin Hardy was a star on and off the court.

The 22-year-old college basketball player from St. Charles, Illinois, who died last week after a battle with stage fourth stomach cancer, left a profound impression on those who knew him and those hearing his story for the first time.

His inspirational journey will be remembered by family, friends, coaches and teammates.

Hardy attended Washington University in St. Louis in 2018 and was named University Athletic Association Rookie of the Year.

In his sophomore year, Washington’s season was cut short due to the pandemic. In his junior year, the season was canceled.

But he was preparing to go back to court in his senior year.

Then last April, when the doctors woke up with abdominal pain, the doctors diagnosed a perforated ulcer.

They performed an operation. But then they discovered signs of cancer.

“The doctor came in. She said: ‘I got the pathology results back. You Actually Have Cancer March on ESPN.

Hardy was diagnosed with stage four gastric cancer.

“The initial prognosis he was given was a 12 to 18 month chance of survival after diagnosis,” said Justin’s mother, Karen Hardy.

“Right now there is no cure for stage four gastric cancer,” Hardy told ESPN. “And I get put into this game that I theoretically have no chance of winning.”

In the SportsCenter Featured segment entitled “Mind Over Matter,” Hardy wrote a letter to himself.

“Justin, I know you’ve heard some bad news. News that today is the worst day of your life,” he wrote. “Your mind will shift to a place you didn’t know you were capable of. You’re going to be the toughest person mentally when you go through this. There are many more great days to come. Don’t let negativity get you down. It’s all mind over matter.”

Hardy underwent radiation and chemotherapy to fight the cancer.

He went from 215 pounds to 165 pounds.

“He looked like a shell of himself. He couldn’t move. He was weak. His voice was weak. It wasn’t the same Justin,” said Washington University guard Charlie Jacob.

His coach Pat Juckem, who described Hardy as a basketball machine, said, “We’re our best version of ourselves when he’s with us.” But the coach no longer believed in Hardy’s basketball future.

However, the college senior thought differently.

He trained with the team until October 2021. A month later he was in the starting XI. In December, Hardy dove again.

Jacob said he only smiled because he knew what he was experiencing with his teammate probably had never happened before and would never happen again.

On February 1, 2022, Hardy was informed that the cancer had spread to the lining of his colon.

Five days later, he hit a career high with 28 points.

“If I did that, I would do that,” Hardy said. “That beats it. That’s how I live my life regardless of the circumstances. If that doesn’t beat, I don’t know what will.”

However, the cancer continued to spread and Hardy’s condition worsened.

He was unable to eat solid food, and his weight and strength decreased.

Hardy’s sister, Jackie, called him to ask him a question: “Is that…”

Hardy ended the question for her, “Is this the beginning of the end?” He replied, “Yes.”

“I can’t control the spread of the cancer inside me. This part will do what it does. And he may be further away than I think, but he’s definitely closer than I’d like.” Hardy said.

In mid-February, Hardy began an aggressive, experimental treatment protocol. But it was stopped when the side effects ravaged his body and he had to be hospitalized.

He missed three games in a row.

And when Washington University graduated on February 26, Hardy couldn’t walk onto the pitch for the pregame celebrations without pain as he swelled from his hips to his ankles.

Hardy’s sister had asked him before today’s game if he was thinking of playing.

She said he replied, “‘I’ll put on a leotard, but I won’t play. I don’t want pity and sympathy to play.’”

Hardy checked in with 37 seconds left in the game against the University of Chicago and Washington.

Hardy, so weak he could barely shoot, got a standing ovation from the 500 fans in attendance.

Moments later, he made a basket.

It would be the last shot of Justin Hardy’s career at Washington University.

Washington would go on to play two rounds in the NCAA Division III tournament. Hardy failed to dress for both games.

“It felt like the end of a chapter,” Jackie said.

Hardy’s influence was felt by those who knew him well before he entered college.

He immediately made an impression on Patrick Woods, the head basketball coach at St. Charles East High School.

“I would see him steal the ball and walk away for a breakaway dunk,” Woods told our sister station WLS-TV Chicago. “You don’t see that too often as a freshman.”

Woods said Hardy is versatile. He could dunk or nail a three-pointer like he did a few years ago to win the game against St. Charles North. The shot went viral.

CLOCK | Justin Hardy’s game-winning 3-point shot that went viral in 2018

Hardy was also a leader off the court, Woods said, calling him a “phenomenal student” who graduated with honors from high school as a straight-A student.

He won an award for courage during Final Four weekend and returned to St. Charles East for a special basketball game in his honor.

But on Sunday, May 29, 2022, his family broke the news that Hardy had died at the age of 22.

His father tweeted: “After 13 months of courageously redefining what it means to live with cancer, Justin passed away peacefully this morning.”

Woods said that while the loss is heartbreaking, he finds solace in other teachers’ stories of Hardy’s compassion.

“I had a student in my class that some kids might make fun of or pick on and not want to sit next to, and actually he pulled the chair right next to that student and befriended them and sat next to him them the rest of the semester,” Woods said.

A legacy celebration honoring Hardy will be held at the St. Charles East gym on Friday. Organizers say one of Hardy’s wishes was for attendees to wear their favorite team’s jersey.

Washington University extended its condolences to Hardy’s family.

“Justin’s love of basketball, the competition and his teammates made him very special. We were fortunate to be taken on his journey,” the university said. “Justin taught us many lessons including how to deal with adversity and what winning really means.”

On the SportsCenter Featured segment, Hardy told ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski that he keeps playing because it’s what he loves.

“You can’t give up the things you love to do just because you get into a little misfortune,” Hardy said. “And that’s how I’m going to live the rest of my life.”

Continuing his letter to himself, he wrote: “You write your story. From the first page to the very last page. This disease cannot take that away from you. Get out there and brave the odds. Rewrite how to live with cancer.”

“You’re going to do some incredible things.”

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https://abc7.com/justin-hardy-cancer-washington-university-in-st-louis-basketball-washu/11915096/ Washington University basketball player Justin Hardy dies of stomach cancer at the age of 22

Laura Coffey

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