Dwight Hardy works out for Nets
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The colors of their uniforms were unfamiliar. The audience was much smaller. But on Monday afternoon, Dwight Hardy and Ben Hansbrough went up against each other one more time.
The two first-team All-Big East players -- Hansbrough the conference's Player of the Year, Hardy the Most Improved Player -- were not playing for Notre Dame and St. John's anymore. They were playing for themselves and their future livelihoods, in front of the coaches and front-office executives of the New Jersey Nets.
Reporters were allowed to watch the final few minutes of the workout, the last one the Nets will hold prior to Thursday's NBA draft.
"I think I played pretty well," Hardy said afterward. "I got after it on the defensive end, made shots, was vocal, being a leader out there. So I think I gave them my hardest."
As great as these guys were in college, neither has a great chance of being drafted. Hansbrough is ranked the No. 67 prospect in this year's class by ESPN analyst Chad Ford, and Hardy is ranked No. 95 -- only 60 players will be selected on Thursday. Teams are concerned about Hansbrough's athleticism and lateral quickness. The biggest knock on Hardy is he is undersized (6-foot-2) to play his position (shooting guard) at the next level.
"It's always good to play with the good competition," said Hansbrough, who was participating in his second workout since spraining his ankle three weeks ago. "Not only did I get a chance to play against Dwight again, but I also had the chance to play with him and I loved playing with him. He's a very unselfish player and he's very tough."
Hansbrough has had five NBA workouts so far and will have at least one more before Thursday. Monday's workout with the Nets was Hardy's first with an NBA team, with no more scheduled at this point.
"I haven't had the opportunity to work out with as many teams as I would have liked," Hardy said. "But anytime you get a chance to show what you've got in front of an organization is just a dream come true, and I'm just blessed and I'm happy to be here."
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The Nets own two picks in this year's draft -- No. 27 in the first round (acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers) and No. 36 in the second round. Nets general manager Billy King was asked what he thought about the group that worked out for the team on Monday, which also included Georgia guard Travis Leslie, Virginia guard Mustapha Farrakhan, Hofstra forward Greg Washington and French center Bangaly Fofana.
"They competed and played hard," King said. "A lot of the things they do on the court, they confirmed it. But they played hard."
When asked specifically about Hardy and his NBA prospects, King said, "I don't know if he'll be drafted, but I think he may have a chance to get into somebody's (training) camp. And then once you get to a camp, anything can happen."
Hansbrough, the younger brother of former North Carolina star and Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough, said he called upon his brother's workout experiences three years ago to prepare for his sojourn around the country.
"Tyler has been a great influence on me," said the younger Hansbrough, who averaged 18.4 points and 4.3 assists for Notre Dame last season. "He continues to tell me to bring intensity to every workout, tells me to go out there and show them what I have. He's been an overachiever his whole life, so he's easy to look up to."
Hardy plans to watch the draft at home in the Bronx on Thursday night with his family -- he lives with his parents, his brother and sister, his girlfriend and his daughter Aniyah, who just turned 4. If he doesn't hear his name called, his most likely destination is France -- Hardy has already made one trip over there to work out for a team and said it went well.
"I wouldn't mind going overseas if my name wasn't called. ... I still wanna play basketball," Hardy said. "It won't be tough at all. I've been in Iowa, junior college for two straight years, so I'm used to leaving New York and not being next to my family. Like I said, it's about sacrificing. My family knows my situation, and they know what I have to do. They just want the best for me."
Hardy admitted that he is still haunted by St. John's early exit in the NCAA tournament in March, getting upset by No. 11 seed Gonzaga in Denver in the school's first NCAA tournament game since 2002.
"I'm still not over it," Hardy said. "It's tough. We had high expectations, and things didn't go our way. But that's basketball.
"It's always in my head. I wanted the best for me and my teammates. The coaching staff did a great job coming in working with us. ... I don't think it's ever gonna leave my head, but I don't think it's gonna stop me from moving on."
Since the season ended, Hardy said has been working out hard -- primarily at St. John's under the direction of assistant coach Rico Hines, who in his previous position was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.
Hardy has specifically focused on improving his speed, his ballhandling and his midrange shot. His ultimate career goal remains the NBA. But right now he has another goal in mind, after he signs his first professional contract, wherever that may be.
"I live in the projects. The first thing I'm gonna do is get my mom out of the projects," Hardy said. "That's all I think about when I'm working out, or anything with basketball. Just provide a better life for my family. ... That's what motivates me to come out here and work my hardest every day."
Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.