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Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of our Together 4 Her series. Launched in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Title IX legislation, Together 4 Her is a year-round initiative by UM Athletics that showcases accomplishments of women from around the university while supporting gender equality on and off the field of play. For more information click here.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – In the tough moments just after the season – and in turn, her Miami career – came to an end last month, Destiny Harden sat in the spotlight next to her head coach and tried to hold her head high.

Harden, long one of Miami’s unquestioned leaders on and off the court, was prepared to answer questions about the hard-fought loss to LSU which had just ended the Hurricanes’ historic run to the Elite Eight. But there was no doubt she was struggling with her emotions.

That’s why her coach wanted to make sure Harden – and everyone else – truly understood the impact the forward had made not just during that magical three-week stretch of March, but all throughout her time at Miami.

“I know she probably doesn’t want to be sitting here right now, but she should be proud, and her shoulders should be back, and her chin should be up because she carried this program,” Miami’s Katie Meier said. “She carried it with her attitude, with her effort, with her toughness and her loyalty.”

Meier then turned to Harden.

“I want her up here because I’m celebrating you, Destiny Harden, because you have changed this program and we are never looking back thanks to you,” she continued.

Meier wasn’t exaggerating.

During her five years at Miami, Harden has helped take the Hurricanes to new heights.

As a redshirt senior last year, she put together an improbable, late-game 15-0 run that helped Miami clinch a win over Louisville in the ACC Tournament and propelled the Hurricanes to the ACC Championship Game for the first time in program history.

And this season, the second-team All-ACC selection averaged 11.9 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game as the Hurricanes made history again.

After she scored 11 points to help the Hurricanes rally from a 17-point deficit against Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 64, Harden put together another strong performance, scoring 18 points – including the go-ahead bucket with 3.3 seconds remaining – to lift Miami to a win over top-seeded Indiana.

That victory over the Hoosiers not only sent the Hurricanes to their first Sweet 16 since the tournament field expanded in 1994, but gave Indiana its only loss at home this season and left more than 14,000 fans stunned as the Hurricanes celebrated.

“That Indiana game was pretty special. That was the game that made history,” Harden said. “They hadn’t lost a game on their home court, so we had to go against them, plus their 14,000 fans and sending Miami to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years, it will always be something special. I can hold that forever. I can say that forever. That will always be my special moment at Miami.”

"Sending Miami to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years, it will always be special."

Hurricanes forward Destiny Harden

Still, as significant as that win was, Harden and the Hurricanes weren’t finished.

In the Sweet 16, Miami knocked off another higher seed – Villanova, this time – to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time. And Harden was a part of that win, too, with 15 points and nine rebounds.

On Sunday, Harden will be among 11 Hurricanes student-athletes honored for their work in the community, in the classroom and in competition for their respective sports during Miami’s ninth annual Celebration of Women’s Athletics.

The recognition comes not long after Harden – who has already earned an undergraduate degree in criminology and is now completing a master’s degree in public administration – reached another career milestone: being selected by the Phoenix Mercury in this year’s WNBA Draft.

Now, Harden will head west to try and earn her spot on the Mercury’s roster.

She says when she does, she’ll be taking the lessons she learned at Miami with her.

“I feel like coming in here, I was a young kid. Miami developed me into a better, stronger woman. When you come to college, you have kind of a child’s mindset. But Miami helps you become a better person,” Harden said. “It helped me grow as a person and as a basketball player. I think that’s why I appreciate Miami so much…

“Miami’s meant a lot because, like I’ve said plenty of times, Coach Meier has known me since I was 15 years old and now, to stand here at 24 it’s like ‘wow.’ I can really say I’m a Miami Hurricane for life. It’s going to be an amazing story after college. I think that’s what being a Miami Hurricane is all about, you come in being one person and leave as a grown woman.”

And while Harden says she won’t be forgetting any of her experiences at Miami, there’s no doubt her impact at Miami won’t be forgotten either, as Meier noted last month.

That’s more than Harden says she could have hoped for when she started her Hurricanes journey.

“It means everything to know I was part of helping take this team to a new level. That’s not something I came to Miami thinking I could do, but now that it’s here…it’s something I can look back on when I’m [older] and say, ‘Me and my team did something at Miami that’s never been done,” Harden said. “We’re going to cherish those moments, but also, now, that’s the next step for Miami. There’s no looking back for the program. It’s just going to continue to grow from here.”