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Duke retires Harding's jersey

Lindsey Harding walked onto the hardwood at Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday, not in hightops, but in heels.

Less than a year ago, the 5-foot-8 guard's sneakers were squeaking across Coach K court as the leader of a high-profile Duke team. On Sunday, Harding watched Duke's game against N.C. State from the sidelines as both an alum and a guest of honor.

Duke officially retired Harding's No. 10 jersey in a halftime ceremony. The recognition made Harding, the winningest point guard in program history, just the second female Blue Devil to see her jersey hang in Cameron's rafters.

"It's great because I came here and I left my mark and its always going to be here," Harding said before the game. "It's something I never thought would happen."

More than 50 team alumni and managers lined up to create a tunnel-type entrance for the 2007 National Player of the Year as the entire crowd chanted her name.

High-fiving the line-up, Harding approached the approached center court. Former teammates Wanisha Smith and Abby Waner-fresh off the court-were waiting with flowers and hugs.

"It was a great experience," Smith said. "It was great to be out there and support her because I had played with her for a few years, so congratulations to Lindsey."

Alana Beard, whose No. 20 jersey was the first to be retired from the women's program in 2004, was also in attendance for Harding's ceremony.

"She gave me a hug and said it was well-deserved and 'I'm so proud of you,'" Harding said. "I definitely got a lot of support from her."

Presenting Harding with a framed jersey, Athletic Director Joe Alleva and University President Richard Brodhead spoke on Harding's behalf. Harding hoisted the frame over her head and pumped it to the applause of her fans.

As the black curtain dropped off Harding's No. 10 banner in the rafters, the crowd errupted.

"I'm very excited and emotional," Harding said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm so happy I want to cry."

In front of the podium herself, Harding said jersey retirement was never an immediate goal for her, although she felt it was the most lasting accomplishment of her Duke career.

"I had different goals and never thought about it until my senior season with all these awards and all this talk, Harding said. "When Alana left and I looked up there and saw the jersey, it was a bit of an inspiration knowing that she changed history. I would love it if another player comes through and says, Alana Beard did this, Lindsey Harding did this-two different players, but both found ways to impact this program-and provide inspiration for to future Duke players."

Harding and fellow classmate Alison Bales, both in Durham for the ceremony, also took the time to and work with their former team Saturday during practice in Cameron. The pair matched up with Duke players to throw their new WNBA experiences in with the mix.

"It brought back old memories," Chante Black said. "I definitely hadn't played with them last year too much, so just being able to bring back players that we've played with in the past who moved onto bigger and better things is always just a joy."

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