In finally deciding on Arizona State, Bruce chose a college that a girl friend, for one, had disapproved of ever since Bruce visited Tempe in December. "He told me it was so warm there that the girls didn't wear much clothes," she said, grimacing. Weather, in fact, did influence Bruce, who liked the idea of throwing the football in a warm climate. He also was impressed by Kush's winning record. "He's like my dad," Bruce says. "He's a pressure-type guy. If you're super, he expects you to play super."
Never in any sport has Bruce played more super than during the past basketball season. Bingham won the state title more convincingly this time, rolling up an 18-2 record, the highlight of the regular season being a 100-66 rout of Judge Memorial, the team Bingham had upset in the state finals the year before. As 2,700 fans whooped it up in Bingham's gym, Bruce Hardy and the Mountain Men jumped to a 10-1 lead. With Bruce blocking shots, triggering the fast break and scoring at will, the thankless job of stopping him fell to Judge's Tad Mancini, a 6'6" bean pole with choirboy features and mischief in his heart.
As his frustration mounted, Tad leaned on Bruce, and tattooed him with hands and elbows. Annoyance flashed across Bruce's face. With two minutes left, Tad pulled Bruce's jersey, stretching it out as if it were a tent. In sudden fury. Bruce wheeled and caught Tad with a sharp right. The punch caused no real damage, but both players were ejected from the game.
The excitement did not end there. With four seconds to go, Bingham called time to present the game ball to Bruce, whose 29 points put him eight over the 1,000 mark for his career. As Hardy rose from the bench to which he had been banished, Judge Coach Jim Yerkovich angrily led his team off the court. "Why didn't they hold the ceremony when he actually got the points?" Yerkovich demanded. The last four seconds were never played.
Afterward Bruce was subdued. "I shouldn't have hit him," he muttered. "I should have controlled myself."
Considering the demands of being an old-fashioned high school hero, it might be said that Bruce Hardy has controlled himself, in general, rather well. He was calm enough, certainly, the night last October that somebody broke into his Galaxie and swiped his letterman's jacket. It happened while Bruce and a date were watching American Graffiti in a Salt Lake City theater and, fortunately, he was able to buy a new jacket a few days later.
The culprits might have been overzealous trophy hunters, and Bruce might even be right when he says, "They probably know me." His jacket evidently had high value for the thieves. They left behind Bruce's tape deck and his date's purse, both of which were also in the car.