LINCOLN — Earlier this week, Hannah Tvrdy said she planned to celebrate Thursday as so many folks in Seward do: heading to downtown for the carnival, parade and “food alley” of Nebraska’s largest annual Independence Day celebration. Seward bills itself as “America’s Fourth of July City,” after all.
“It’s awesome — pretty much everyone in Seward does,” Tvrdy said.
The town has grown a reputation for good women’s basketball players, too. And if Seward was bringing a contingent in recent years to watch Nebraska forward and Seward graduate Emily Cady at the old Devaney Center, that number could easily multiply now that the 5-foot-9 Tvrdy is a freshman for the Huskers and reuniting with Cady — who played a key role in NU’s Sweet 16 run last year — at the new Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“So exciting,” Tvrdy said, and meant it. She repeated the phrase often in a phone interview. She committed to Nebraska in 2011, before most of this crop of Huskers had even played a game in Lincoln, and has been on campus since early June.
While Nebraska’s other top newcomers, forward Allie Havers and guard Esther Ramacieri, don’t arrive until later this month, Tvrdy battles current Husker guards T’eara Laudermill, Rachel Theriot and Brandi Jeffery in pickup games, trying to acclimate to the speed of the college game.
“It’s definitely a step up,” Tvrdy said. “They’re all great basketball players. T (Laudermill) is so fast. She’s definitely a top defensive player.”
Laudermill will be called on to score more often as a junior, but her first two seasons were spent as a defensive “hound” in coach Connie Yori’s defense. Tvrdy said defensive stopper could be her role early in her career, as well, especially as women’s basketball institutes a 10-second rule for teams to cross half court. Although Tvrdy averaged 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and four assists in her senior year at Seward — a similar all-around game to the taller Cady — she said she’d embrace the defensive role initially.
“You have to have the tenacity to just dog somebody,” she said.
She started developing that trait in the second grade, when she played for her mom, Shelley, on Seward En Fuego. In high school, Hannah’s dad, Tom, coached her to state titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Seward made it to the state semifinals this year before losing.
It was Tom who spent so many hours in the gym helping to hone Hannah’s game. And Tom who helped develop Hannah’s mind for basketball.
Now, Hannah said, he’ll have to adjust to being one of those Seward families that sits in the seats while Yori and her staff develops his daughter. How does Hannah think he’ll handle it?
“I don’t know,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a little tough for him right now. But I think he’ll understand and just like watching.”