Dwight Hardy took the next step in his career and as a person last year.

The Bronx native and former St. John’s University men’s basketball star already had four successful seasons playing in Italy under his belt, including an MVP campaign with Tuscany Pistoia in 2012. Hardy felt it was time to further challenge himself and signed with Trabzonspor of the top league in Turkey.

“My role increased and I think the Turkish league has competition that is a little bit better than the Italian League so I just wanted to see how I would do,” Hardy said.

He started and distinguished himself as one of the league’s top players. The 6-foot-2 Hardy was ninth in scoring with 15.7 points per game. He also led his team with three assist for contest. Trabzonspor finished 16-14 and his time there brought out some of the best in him. He was asked to be the club’s defensive stopper along with its top scorer. Hardy felt he benefited from his time there so much that will return to Trabzonspor next season.

“We had a great year,” Hardy said. “I played with some great guys. It definitely made me a better player.”

His role also further brought out his leadership qualities. Hardy has traditionally been a lead by example type player, deferring to veteran players and other guys who are better suited to be vocal. That couldn’t be the case with Tuscany Pistoia. It was Hardy who was thrust into the role and grew comfortable in it.

“I became a better vocal leader out there last year,” Hardy said. “I felt that helped me to improve all around. My having to do that made our team better.”

The year also saw a shift in his personal life has he married his girlfriend of 10 years. He is spending his offseason again playing streetball all over New York City this summer. There is a new wrinkle however with the first ever Ball Up Million Dollar Summer Challenge tournament at John Jay College in Manhattan.

New York City’s winning team receives $50.000 and a chance to play the five others winners from across the country in late July for $500,000. Hardy, who played with R2K/Ooh-Way, lost in the final to Sean Bell 81-67 on July 19. He was impressed with the tournament despite the tough defeat.

“It brings the best competition in the city and it is extra money to whoever wins,” Hardy said. “I think it is a great opportunity for everybody who is participating in this tournament.”

Hardy made the most his opportunity overseas this season, showing this is plenty of room for him still to grow as a player and a person.

“Older guys would be the leader,” Hardy said. “I wasn’t the older guy this year, but they looked up to me so. I knew that was the right opportunity for me to do it.”

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