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From Chicago to Coral Gables, Destiny Harden Is Fueled by Competition



Photo Credit: Miami Athletics

On March 2, 2023, the day of Miami’s matchup against Boston College in the second round of the ACC Tournament, head coach Katie Meier was expecting her team to play without its sixth-year leader, Destiny Harden.

That afternoon, Meier witnessed the unthinkable. Harden, who was discharged from the hospital at 2 p.m., emerged onto the court at Greensboro Coliseum for Miami’s 2:30 p.m. walkthrough, less than six hours before the game tipped off at 8 p.m.

Meier’s response to this was built on the strong relationship that the two have formed since Harden’s arrival at Miami in 2018.

“You’re Destiny fricken’ Harden, and I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

Harden’s cutthroat competitive nature was bred from her upbringing. Like many children growing up in Chicago, she was introduced to basketball at a young age.

Her family, including her dad and uncle, played the sport often. This introduced Harden to the game, and from there, her love for basketball was born.

“It was something that they did and I’ve seen that they had fun doing so I picked it up at a very young age just by doing it outside, at a park, in a alley, drive-through,” Harden said. “Wherever I saw a ball and a rim, I participated.”

These early days are what shaped Harden into the player she is now. Basketball in Chicago is infamous, and for good reason; it’s ruthless. The same courts that developed Harden previously developed Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Candace Parker and so many other basketball legends that came before her.

“You know how [in] football you gotta have pads on because you gonna get hit, you gonna be scraped? Chicago, you’re playing basketball on concrete. You’re diving for balls at a very young age,” Harden said. “You could have battle wounds at a young age on concrete just because it’s fun. It’s competitive and that’s why I say you got a dog mentality.”

This merciless and unforgiving brand of basketball engrained in Harden translated to her years at Morgan Park High School.

At this point, Harden had begun to take basketball more seriously. She played travel ball throughout middle school and after her freshman year at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep, she was ready for the next challenge at one of the most competitive public school programs that Chicago had to offer.

“It was kind of like a trenches type of high school. A lot of things happening there besides basketball but my main focus was to stay on basketball so I never got really distracted when going to Morgan Park,” Harden said. “A lot of dogs come from out of Chicago. You get a lot of grit and heart coming out of Chicago.”

After her high school seasons ended, Harden played in the spring and summer months for now-Mississippi State assistant coach Corry Irvin and the Mac Irvin Fire, a shoe-brand travel team based out of Chicago.

This program only grew Harden’s “dog mentality,” as she traveled from state to state, punishing opponents with the relentless style of play that she was so accustomed to.

In her college years, Harden has battled through injuries and has experienced the mentally taxing process of transferring schools. Through these bouts of adversity and the battles of the Chicago courts, Harden has emerged as the fiery core that holds the Hurricanes together.

“She can change the mood of the whole practice, the whole team with just her presence,” UM forward Lola Pendande said about Harden, who she describes as her best friend. “Whenever she’s present, everybody’s cool, everybody’s great. Whenever she has maybe has like a little bad day, everybody can sense it and the atmosphere is different so it’s just her aura.”

As for her competitive fire? This has continued to blaze.

“She wants to win in anything she does,” Pendande said. “When it comes to competing, there’s nothing that’s gonna get in the way with that … She has a goal, and she wants to go get it no matter what.”

Harden’s path in life after Miami is unclear, but there is one certainty.

She will compete. No matter what.



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