In March, Cary (N.C.) Green Hope High senior basketball starter John Hardin made history simply by signing a letter of intent to play at a Division III school. While such a decision might usually have landed on the transactions page or high school briefs section, Hardin's letter of intent received its own feature story in the always excellent News & Observer.
Yet there's a good reason for the hoopla behind Hardin's college choice: He's signed to be the first boy basketball player at an all-girls school.
The previously all female school in question is William Peace University, a small Division III school which decided to open its enrollment to both men and women beginning in fall 2012, converting what has been Peace College for the past 154 years to William Peace University.
As reported by the News & Observer, shortly after Hardin signed on to be a part of the new basketball program being run by Claude Shields -- a former University of North Carolina junior varsity basketball player -- six other players joined the Green Hope guard as part of Peace's first ever male basketball recruiting class. While basketball isn't going to be the only male sport available in the inaugural year of the school's gender integration, it bears a far higher profile than golf and cross country, which will also be offered.
No matter how much attention the first male members of Peace get, it won't be universally positive. According to the News & Observer, the existing all-female student body at Peace sounded loud opposition to the decision to allow male students. That didn't deter Hardin from being a part of history, a step he is clearly making with both a positive and diplomatic attitude.
"Hopefully we don't take away from the tradition of the school, because we're just helping out," Hardin told the News & Observer. "Some of the women at first weren't on board with the guys coming. But we got to talk to some of the teachers and staff, and they're excited for us to get in there and help out with the programs and everything."
That's the kind of statement one would expect from a student leader who -- in addition to an unselfish, defense-focused starter on the basketball team -- is a recipient of a Peace leadership scholarship for the incoming school year and plays a major role with his church's Young Life program.
As for what Hardin can contribute at the next level, his high school coach, John Green, said there was no question he would fill an important role on any team.
"I don't think I can remember a role player better than John Hardin," Green said. "He knew that in order for him to get minutes and significant minutes he was going to have to box out, rebound, defend, not turn the ball over and score when he has opportunities."