Justin Hardy, a basketball player for Washington University in St. Louis, passed away on Sunday from stomach cancer at age 22, according to a statement from his father Bob Hardy.
Hardy was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer in April 2021 but continued to play for the school after undergoing treatment. In spite of the illness, he remained his team’s second leading scorer as they reached the second round of the Division III NCAA tournament.
Hardy’s father Bob shared the news in a post on Twitter on Sunday. The post read: “After 13 months of redefining what it means to live with cancer, Justin passed peacefully early this morning.”
Washington University’s athletics department said in a statement: “Our deepest condolences go out to Justin Hardy’s family on his passing. We are devastated by this loss but comforted by the manner in which he lived his life.
“We have the awesome responsibility to carry forward his legacy of relentless positivity. To respond to even the toughest of circumstances with the strength and courage that Justin did. In his own words: ‘If you want to win, just give me the ball.'”
Hardy’s coach, Pat Juckem, spoke to the university-run website The Source about Hardy’s importance to his team.
“We feel Justin’s presence all of the time,” Juckem was quoted as saying. “From the moment he stepped foot on this campus, he has been a pillar both on and off the floor. No matter what was happening on the scoreboard — and we had plenty of success — we felt like every day was a win because we were in it together.”
According to The Source, Hardy lost 50 pounds after chemotherapy and thought he might not be able to play his final season. But doctors cleared him to play.
Hardy told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in January: “This is my life now and one day it changed forever. If I want to live life, I have to choose to put my best foot forward and attack it with a positive mentality. Someone said, ‘Positivity kills cancer.’ I don’t feel happy with the situation, but I do with where I am in life.”
In February, Hardy was featured on ESPN’s College GameDay, where he spoke candidly about moving forward despite his terminal diagnosis. “This is me living my life regardless of the circumstances. If this isn’t beating it, I don’t know what is,” he said.
A huge Chicago Bulls fan, Hardy attended Game 3 of the first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks as a guest of the franchise. Hardy grew up near Chicago in the suburb of St. Charles.
He graduated early this past December from Washington University’s Olin Business School with a degree in finance and accounting.