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Graduate Spotlight '22: Jackie Luckhardt

Name: Jackie Luckhardt

Home: Londonderry, N.H.

Major: Leadership Studies

 

No college student wants their identity reduced to a number, but there is nothing cold or impersonal about the numbers that define Jackie Luckhardt’s time at the University of Southern Maine.

She secured her place in the record book with a midrange jumper in a basketball game against Keene State on February 22. When that shot dropped through the net, Luckhardt became the 21st player in the history of the USM Women’s Basketball program to score at least 1,000 career points.

Her status becomes even more exclusive by adding her career statistics together. Luckhardt is only the second player in program history to combine for 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists, and 300 steals.

“Growing up, I was never the scorer, I was never the go-to player. I love my assists. I love to feed people the ball,” Luckhardt said. “I just want to be able to impact the game and impact the people around me, but also to have those accomplishments is a great feeling.”

In order to reach those milestones, Luckhardt had to weather several interruptions across multiple seasons. A torn anterior cruciate ligament kept her off the court for her sophomore year. She had no illusions about the effort it would take to get back into top form through her undergraduate studies in Athletic Training.

An eligibility extension allowed her to pick up where she left off. Aside from wearing a leg brace to support her repaired knee, Luckhardt made no adjustments to her aggressive playing style at the point guard position. She drives hard to the hoop, daring defenders to put a body on her.

“I definitely was in pain a good amount, but I’ve always been a competitor. I’ve always been someone who never wants to walk off the court, the field, the playing surface with any sort of regrets,” Luckhardt said. “And so, I kind of think about how I want people to remember me and how I want to remember myself and then I just let the game speak for itself.”

Having regained confidence in her knee, Luckhardt’s future looked bright, and then the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Another seasonevaporated as college campuses across the country canceled events and shifted to remote learning.

Players relied on social media to try to build team chemistry while they each practiced in isolation to keep their skills sharp. Games resumed the next year, but crowds and the energy they provide were slow to come back. Schedules were constantly rearranged as outbreaks forced teams into quarantine. Luckhardt sat through three quarantines because of close contacts to people with COVID, although she never tested positive herself.

During the COVID shutdown, Luckhardt completed her undergraduate program. Another eligibility extension meant she would finish her basketball career as a graduate student pursing a master’s degree in Leadership Studies. Her course of study made perfect sense to Head Coach Samantha Norris.

“Where she shined most was in pressure situations,” Norris said. “Whether it was needing to make a steal and score at the end of the game, making opponents look foolish in a numbers-up transition situation, or relentlessly closing the gap when we had dug ourselves into a hole, Jackie’s inspirational leadership elevated our play and brought a fiery passion to our game.”

Luckhardt is excited to make up for the graduation ceremony that was held virtually in 2020 by marching in person at this year’s commencement on Saturday, May 7. She is still figuring out what will happen next.

A career in basketball is her ultimate goal. Luckhardt has committed to coach an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) youth team through the summer. Beyond that, she’ll be on the lookout for the right position to make a long-term commitment. She also doesn’t rule continuing her own playing career if an overseas club expressed an interest in her.

“Being a student athlete has been so rewarding and has taught me so much about myself and about being a leader and a competitor,” Luckhardt said. “I hope that people cherish being a student athlete because it goes by so fast.”