Hawaiian girls come hand-in-hand to St. John’s

Kathleen Yee and Patti Hardimon have each other to thank for being at St. John’s

Hardimon was recruited after St. John’s coach Joanne Persico-Smith saw her play in drills at a clinic in Hawaii for Quicksets, where the junior outside hitter was coaching. She had taken a year off from Chaminade University of Honolulu and was looking to transfer and eventually did in late August.

But Persico-Smith was also looking for a libero.

“I did my research,” said Hardimon. “I found our [Hawaiian] newspapers and Leena was actually put down as a setter, but I told her (Persico-Smith) that she was the best libero in Hawaii.”

Added Persico-Smith: “Patti was the one that pointed me to Leena.”

Hardimon knew Yee, a freshman, was not a setter because the two had played for the Jammers volleyball club coached by Yee’s mom when both were in elementary school. Both also played at Moanalua High School, but never on the same team because of the age difference. Yee remembered Hardimon also.

“Coach was asking me about Patti and I said, ‘Yeah, we could use her. You have to get her up here,'” Yee said.

Yee and Hardimon, Honolulu natives, said they were not close during high school though, but that has changed.

“St. John’s bought us back together,” said Yee.

The two found out they were both seriously considering St. John’s when they ran into each other at one of their former high school’s basketball games.

Both ended up in Queens and are contributing in their own unique way to a Red Storm team that is currently 18-7 overall. Yee is the maturing freshman and Hardimon, the savvy veteran.

“She’s very steady,” Persico-Smith said of the 5-foot-7 Hardimon, who has 233 kills and 254 digs so far this season. “She has all the skills.”

Yee’s transition may have been a little tougher, having to be a starting libero in the Big East as a freshman.

“It blows me away,” she said of conference competition.

So far this season that effect cannot be seen in the 5-foot-2 Yee’s play. She currently leads the team with 341 digs and probably hustles just as much as Hardimon does.

“Sometimes we forget she’s a freshman,” Persico-Smith said.

Yee and Hardimon, along with teammate Laurie Miyasato are not the only players who have recruited from the Aloha State. The list includes Rosalyn Dang, the team’s graduate assistant and Robyn Kurasaki, the program’s all-time leader in assists and a St. John’s strength and conditioning coach. Both graduated in 2003 and started in every single match of their four-year careers.

“We’re pretty well known in Hawaii,” said Persico-Smith, who wants to continue recruiting there.

Having current players and alumni with roots there makes drawing players away from the island a little easier.

“I look up to Robin,” Yee said. She said Kurasaki helped her with her transition to New York. But Hardimon and Yee may not have received the opportunity to play in the Big Apple had at not been for each other.

“In a way we-,” Yee said before Hardimon completed her sentence. Finished Hardimon: “-brought each other up. You brought me here. I brought you here.”