May 31—Terrors' Hardin earns Boys Tennis MVP for major impact
A true MVP's impact goes beyond their production between the lines. Jaben Hardin helped jumpstart Glynn Academy's program, and for that, he earns The News' Boys Tennis award.
In what was, for all intents and purposes, Hardin's lone season with the Terrors, the future college tennis player assumed the mantle as Glynn's top player, creating a much-needed pecking order amongst the rest of the lineup.
The result was a home playoff match for the program and an appearance in the Sweet 16 round of the state tournament.
Hardin wasn't satisfied with his overall tally in the wins and losses columns, but his presence was undeniably a catalyst for the Terrors' success.
"Even though my record wasn't the best, I feel like because I was put in that No. 1 spot, it gave everybody else a better chance of winning their matches," Hardin said. "It pretty much put everyone down a spot, It pushed us further this year. I think it gave us a really good lineup in all."
Hardin has played tennis since he was 10 years old, making him the most experienced player on Glynn Academy's team. He spent a few years living in South Florida before returning to his hometown ahead of his junior campaign, but by time eligibility issues were cleared up, Hardin only got one match with his new team before the threat of the coronavirus canceled the spring season.
While delayed a year, Hardin's injection into the program quickly paid dividends his senior season.
A void in upperclassmen leadership allowed Hardin to enter the program without worry of rocking the boat or interrupting an established dynamic. He felt the team was ready to build something and looked to him to help accomplish that goal.
"It was actually pretty easy for me starting because I was the only senior on the team," Hardin said. "Automatically, I wouldn't say they looked up to me, but I was put in that leader role because of the age difference."
In addition to leading by example with a tremendous work ethic, Hardin also provided a willing hitting partner for younger players, and assisted with stroke tweaks when he could.
Injuries prevented the Terrors from playing at full strength for much of the season, but the team began to peak entering the postseason as the team got healthy and continued its rapid development.
"We grew exponentially from the beginning," Hardin said. "At the beginning of the year, we would have never thought we would have gone to the second round of state. You could tell within a month or two that everyone was getting a whole lot better."
Hardin is excited about the potential of the team moving forward, but the underclassmen weren't the only ones to progress over the season.
With a commitment to Methodist University in his back pocket, Hardin spent the year honing his skills against the top player each opponent had to offer, seasoning him for the leap ahead.
"I've played a lot of kids that just got to every ball," Hardin said. "Whenever you play those kids, you learn to get really consistent because you just want to get every ball in. At the end of the day, that's all you had to do, and at the end of the day, that's all I did every day, and I got more consistent and more consistent.
"Then towards the end of the year, whenever we started playing the kids that just hit the ball as hard as they could, you match that — you hit the ball as hard as you can."