Bastrop Lady Rams' power forward signs with Baton Rouge Community College.

Choosing a college was easy for Bastrop Lady Rams' power forward Michelle Hardin. One visit to the Baton Rouge Community College campus was all it took.

“I love where I'm going,” said Hardin, who signed to play for the Lady Bears on Friday afternoon. “I made up my mind, officially, after I saw the campus the dorms, the gym and met the coach. (BRCC coach Paula Lee) reeled me in like a fish.”

Lee credits her players for doing most of the work in recruiting the 6-2 Hardin, who averaged 13 points and nine rebounds per game en route to earning first-team All-District 2-4A honors as a senior.

“When a kid comes in on a recruiting visit, she always has a host. As a coach, you always worry that something can go wrong on a visit,” Lee said. “I called the host to check on Michelle and she was in the dorm room with the rest of the players. They were watching movies and doing each other's hair. (The host player) said, 'She's like one of us already.' Michelle fit right in. It was a situation where they clicked from the beginning, which I think sealed the deal for her to come to BRCC.”

It didn't hurt that Hardin was able to see the Lady Bears clinch the Region 23 championship with an overtime victory over Meridian (Miss.). Hardin even assisted the Lady Bears in dumping a water cooler on her future coach after the game.

“When I went to the game, I saw the girls had heart,” Hardin said. “They didn't just get heart, they got it from Coach pushing them in practice. When the game went into overtime, it was like the end of the game all over again. You could tell they were playing from the heart.”

In just the fourth year of the program's history, the Lady Bears lost in the finals of the Regional Tournament.

“We came up one point short of the National Tournament,” said Lee, who recently completed her third year as the Lady Bears' coach.

Lee came to Bastrop to scout Hardin on the recommendation of former Bastrop High point guard Shonda Smith. Now an assistant coach for the Lady Rams, Smith played for Lee at Southern University-Shreveport.

“When I came to watch Michelle play, one thing I liked was her demeanor in the post,” Lee said. “She was aggressive, but she already had a command of the basic post moves. A lot of times, we have to teach the basics when they get here. It's a testament to coach Brooks and coach Shonda that she has an understanding of what she wants to do in the post.”

Hardin became the Lady Rams' second signee in as many as days. Center Danielle Greely signed with Bossier Parish Community College on Thursday. The two are looking forward to opposing one another on Nov. 22 at BPCC.

“Hopefully, Michelle and Danielle will both play well and we get the best of them,” Lee said, smiling, “and they will have grown and matured as basketball players.”

Like Greely, Hardin was academically qualified to sign with a four-year school, but is taking the junior college route by choice. Bastrop coach Emma Brooks encouraged both athletes to take the juco path in order to further develop their games.

“Once Michelle sharpens her skills, she can have a great impact on a program,” Brooks said. “Michelle has a lot of potential. I feel like she is going to go down there, work hard and be ready to sign with a Division I school in two years.”

Brooks believes Hardin will be in good hands at BRCC.

“I only met coach Lee this year, but she seems to be a down-to-earth person and Shonda spoke highly of her. She has those motherly instincts, so she's going to take care of her players,” Brooks said. “Michelle really seemed to like Baton Rouge and the atmosphere at BRCC. She has a positive attitude about the coach and the school.”

Hardin vowed to report to BRCC in August in tip-top condition.

“First and foremost, I plan on getting in shape this summer,” Hardin said. “When I report in August, I want coach Lee to see a different person than she sees now. I plan on working hard and getting a position in the starting lineup.”

Hardin hopes to have a wide range of options when she can sign with a four-year school two years from now.

“I don't have a particular school that I want to go to right now,” Hardin said. “I just want to develop my skills and see who's after me two years from now.”

As for the present, Hardin has set her sights on leaving Bastrop High as a state champion. The Class 4A state runner-up in the shot put last year, Hardin also throws the discus and javelin for the Lady Rams.

A 3.58 student, Hardin plans to pursue a degree in sociology with a minor in kinesiology.