Janice Beach Hardwick, described by Oklahoma sports writers as “one of the brightest women’s basketball stars to ever come out of Oklahoma” and “possibly the finest basketball player this area has produced,” was also one of the finest players in Wayland’s tradition rich heritage. She died on September 23, 2017 after a long battle with cancer. Her mother, Jane Beach, helped write this story. I also drew heavily from an article written by Tyler Palmateer and published in the Lawton Constitution March 12, 2015, and then picked up by the Associated Press and published in the Washington Times on Monday March 23, 2015.
Janice Beach grew up on a farm in Elmer, Oklahoma, where she developed a strong work ethic and a passion for basketball. She helped her father Tommy with irrigation and other farm chores. She had two brothers and one sister, all of whom participated in sports. Her grandparents lived nearby and were all supportive her sports endeavors.
Janice attended Southside School in the Altus school district, graduating as salutatorian of the Class of 1970. While in high school, Janice led her team to two state tournaments, winning the Oklahoma Class B championship in 1970. That season was a stellar one for Janice! Her team went 32-0 and she averaged 40 points per game. She scored 61 points in a state tournament game against Canadian High School, making 25 of 26 free throws. In the 3 games of the state tournament, she scored a total 117 points. Both of these were state records. Janice is still #5 on Oklahoma’s career scoring list with 4075 points and her 61-point single game record, which will stand forever since it came during the old 6-on-6 format. In the current 5-on-5 game, the leading single game scoring record is 57 points.
In 1970, Janice was named to the Oklahoma All-State team and was heavily recruited for college play. She chose to play for Coach Harley Redin at Wayland Baptist College. Her mother reports that at first Janice was “very homesick and that she hated freshman initiation.” Overall however, Janice would say that her time at Wayland “was an experience of a lifetime.” She was coached by two of the best coaches in the country (Redin and Weese). She had the opportunity to travel in style—flying, staying in nice hotels, and eating in nice restaurants—all from the generosity of Claude and Wilda Hutcherson. She had a good relationship with Harley Redin and family. She made lifetime friends among whom were Susan Britton Ford, David Foote, and Marsha Sharp. She and Marsha were roommates for 3 years.
While at Wayland, Janice was a two-time AAU, a three-time NWIT All-American, and she was named the team’s Most Valuable Player in 1974 During her playing career, the Queens won two AAU Championships and four NWIT Championships. One of the highlights of her life was representing the United States at the 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, Columbia, and at the 1973 World University Games in Moscow, winning the silver medal in both. One of Janice’s teammates for the World Games in Moscow was Pat Summitt who later went on to make the Olympic team in 1976, then later built a dynasty at Tennessee, and ultimately blazed her way into the Naismith Hall of Fame. One of Janice’s most memorable playing experiences came at the Pan Am Games when she hit the winning shot at the buzzer to beat Cuba. By the time Janice graduated in 1974, she was among the top 10 on the Flying Queens’ career points list with 1,255 points. Today, she is 21st on that list.
In May 1974, Janice graduated with a bachelor’s degree and began a coaching career that spanned 43 years. Her first position was in Petersburg, Texas, where she coached basketball, tennis, and cheerleading for two years. Then she returned to Oklahoma landing at Navajo High School where for 28 years she coached and mentored many young girls while winning over 500 games. During her tenure, the Navajo Indians made seven state basketball tournament appearances and had seven players make All-State teams. Janice was selected to coach the Oklahoma High School Coaches Association All-State game in 1994. In 2004, not long after retiring from public school teaching, she embarked on a five-year stint as head women’s coach at Western Oklahoma State College where her teams made the playoffs four of those years. At the time of her death, Janice was the assistant girls’ basketball coach at Altus High School. She was assisting head coach Stacie Terbush who had played for Janice at Navajo in the late 1980’s.
Throughout her coaching years Janice spent weeks in the summer teaching girls of all ages the fundamentals of basketball at numerous camps in Southwest Oklahoma. She, herself, also liked attending coach’s camps. Her mother related that Janice, her husband and brother-in-law went to attend Indiana to Bobby Knight’s coach’s camp. She may have been drawn to that camp because Knight married her friend Karen Edgar, who won 3 state titles as Head coach at Oklahoma’s Lomega High School. Janice felt he was a good coach even though many people didn’t like him and learned a lot about the offences he ran. According to Tyler Palmateer, “Bob Knight’s stares [also had] nothing on Janice Beach-Hardwick. She might [even have given] him a run for his money with her yell, too.”
Regarding Janice’s thoughts about her time at Wayland, her mother Jane stated: “I hope you can read the comments I wrote in behalf of Janice, [I may not have answered] exactly the way Janice would have answered them, but [my answers] would be close. I do know she loved Wayland and felt very blessed to have a part in the success of the Queens through the years she spent there. Her respect for Coach Redin and Coach Weese was the greatest. She remained good friends with many of her teammates and classmates. Coach Redin called her several times during her last weeks and she was so pleased to hear from him. David Foote and wife Joanie came to see her the day before she passed away. They had been in close touch through the years. Susan [Britton Ford] called often. [I also know that she liked] being in a Christian atmosphere with Christian leadership.”
Regarding her family, “Janice was blessed when Tim Hardwick stumbled into her life. They were married on June 10, 1983, in Elmer where they eventually built their retirement home. Janice and Tim had no children, but they were a great Aunt and Uncle to many in both families. Tim’s [was a] close family. [Janice’s was] a close family[also]—all living in the area where we were raised.”
Highlights for Janice included participation in the “Pan American Games and the World University Games and attending the NCAA Tournament when Marsha Sharp’s girls won the national championship.” One low was “in January of 2005 [when] her 7-year old nephew collapsed on the basketball court and died after stealing the ball and going for a layup in the first scrimmage he had in city league (of all things on the basketball court!)” Another was “when her Dad passed away, in October of 2005, after open heart surgery.”
Something you might be surprised to know about Janice is that “As well as Janice loved sporting events, she loved the plays and musicals in New York. She and Tim attended [them and her] favorite play was Les Miserables.” Janice also loved “playing golf, traveling with Tim to many sporting events—OU games, Rose Bowl game—going to Ruidoso with friends.” She also “attended all Queens’ reunions.”
For her lifetime of excellence in basketball, Janice was inducted into the Jackson County Sports Hall of Fame; the Wayland Baptist College Athletic Hall of Fame (2003); and the Oklahoma High School Girls Basketball Association Hall of Fame (2015). She was a 41-year member of the OHSGBA and, in 2016-17, they honored her with the prestigious Charles Heatly Award for service. One of her most interesting awards was being named to Oklahoma’s All-Century Girl’s Prep Basketball Teams. Janice (Southside, 1970) was named to the First Team. Other Flying Queens named to this team were Kaye Garms (Loyal, 1954), Second
Team; Peggy Provence (Choctaw, 1972) Fourth Team; and Valerie Goodwin (Forgan, 1975) Fifth Team.
In 2013, shortly after Janice took the assistant job at Altus, she began a contest, that according to Palmateer, “not even the best game plan could defeat.” He described it as follows:
In April 2013, doctors diagnosed Hardwick with Stage 3 ovarian cancer, which led to surgery and five months of chemotherapy, or six full treatments of what Hardwick calls “the hard stuff.” She lost all her hair but continued working at school through all the energy-draining body aches and side-effects.
For a while, she thought she had beat the disease.
“We thought it was pretty much all gone,” Hardwick said. “But right before Christmas (of 2014) some of it came back. I’ve done three more treatments so far and will probably have to do a couple more.”
Hardwick never slowed down. She yelled at players from the bench as if she was 30 years old. She kept working right along with the Bulldogs, who lost five straight games in January only to rebound and become the surprise team in this year’s Class 5A girls state tournament field.
“She hasn’t missed a beat,” Terbush said.
Hardwick learned through chemo treatments that pain reaches its peak in the five days following a session, then by the time you rebound it’s time to go back again. Her resiliency has been mirrored by a team that refused to give up on its season . . . .
Hardwick admitted that, if she can’t stay cancer-free, retirement might come earlier than she initially planned. But for now, she’s treating it like one of her high-scoring performances at Southside, or the game against Cuba when she had the ball in her hands with time winding down. Quitting or slowing down was never an option then, and it isn’t now.
“I’m not built that way,” Hardwick said. “When I found out I had cancer it was like, ‘OK, game’s on.’ That’s always been my attitude and that’s the way I’m doing things right now.”
Janice Beach Hardwick played hard until the last buzzer sounded on September 23, 2017.
The Hutcherson Flying Queens’ Foundation honors her accomplishments and commends her courage.