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UNIVERSITY PARK Being a student athlete at a Division I school isn't easy.

Now add the the responsibility of being a mother, and you have Brittney Hardy's life.

'I've actually had to grow up and become a grownup faster than most college students do,' she said.

Brittney is a 21-year-old redshirt sophomore at SMU. Her redshirt season began in September of 2012, when she had to tell her head coach that she was pregnant.

'The next day, I didn't even wait, just kind of let them know straight up what happened,' Hardy said. 'They were pretty understanding about it. They let me keep my scholarship, they worked with me I'm still here playing.... so it was a blessing.'

Head coach Rhonda Rompola never considered pulling Hardy's scholarship. 'I think once she realized that SMU was very supportive and is very supportive of her situation, I think it really helped her put her mind at ease,' she said.

'I'm just glad Brooklyn's here today,' said SMU guard Keena Mays. 'She brings us so much joy whenever she comes up to the gym or whenever I come over here.'

Brooklyn was born in April 2013. What seemed like the end of the world seven months earlier, was now a brand-new, living, breathing baby. As anyone who is a parent knows, that changes everything.

'I have to do what I have to do for my daughter,' Hardy said. 'She's my number-one priority.'

Hardy's college career hasn't gone the way she had envisioned, both because of a new life, and because of death.

After playing her high school ball at Frisco, Brittney began her college career at Oklahoma State in 2011. In November of that year, her head coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash while on a recruiting trip in Arkansas. 'To this day I hate flying, because of that,' she said. 'I hate getting on planes.'

Soon after, Hardy transferred to SMU.

'To this day, I hate flying because of that. I hate getting on planes,' she said. 'I was really devastated and stressed. I didn't want to stay there any longer. I needed to come home to my family.'

Her reason for coming home was a terrible tragedy, but it did bring her home. She reunited with her old AAU teammate, Keena Mays, who transferred to SMU from Kansas after her freshman year.

Brittney also was close to family when she had Brooklyn, and without their support and support from her fiance it would be almost impossible to play Division I college basketball, go to school, and raise a little girl.

'I've seen her grow up a whole lot,' Mays said. 'Whether that's in the classroom, on the court, just in her whole life, I've seen her grow up a lot.'

'We just treat her like the same Brittney that we have,' said Korina Baker, a guard for the Lady Mustangs. 'I mean, she went through something huge, and we're all so proud of her. But at the same time, she's still Brittney, so we don't treat her any differently.'

It's not easy, and Brittney Hardy has had to grow up fast. But years from now when she looks back on this time, she can say she was a Division I athlete, a college graduate, and a mom.

'We want her to graduate,' Coach Rompola said. 'We want this to be a success story.'

'It's changed a lot in my life, but I think it's for the better,' Hardy said. 'Makes me stronger.'

E-mail tmadden@wfaa.com

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