Transfer Cardano-Hillary knows enough to pick IU

There are a few things you need to know about Nicole Cardaño-Hillary.

First, feel free to call her Nicole or Nikki, she’s fine with either one.

Second, she was born in Madrid, Spain, but her basketball skills were born in Austin, Texas.

And third, Cardaño-Hillary is not a grad transfer.

That last one is most pertinent to Indiana women’s basketball fans after the George Mason transfer announced her commitment to the Hoosiers last week.

The all-time leading scorer in George Mason history and second-leading scorer among active Division I players with 1,766 points has just one year of eligibility remaining. Whether that year will be spent in the 2020-21 season or in ‘21-22 will be determined by an NCAA vote in May on whether players will be allowed a one-time transfer without penalty and if so, when it will be enacted.

The result makes no difference to Cardaño-Hillary, who says she decided to transfer under the assumption she would have to sit out a year.

Either way, she is more concerned about finding a way to raise her game.

“I was really looking for an opportunity to play at another level,” Cardaño-Hillary said. “I decided I didn’t want to regret anything once I got out of college, so I decided now was the time.”

It might have been time a year ago after being named the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year for the 2018-19 season but shortly thereafter came an invitation to join the U-20 Spanish national team.

“I feel like I maximized my sophomore year at Mason, but then being called to play for the Spanish national team and training for that in the summer, the transfer opportunity didn’t arrive,” the 5-foot-7 guard said. “This year was going to be my last chance, and I’m very excited about this next step in my next chapter of life.”

More than 20 schools were vying to be the place where Cardaño-Hillary turned the page, but in narrowing the list Indiana stood out.

“They checked every box, from academics to athletics, and that’s why I decided to commit,” she said. “The coaches were incredibly helpful and kind and I met some of the girls a little bit.”

Cardaño-Hillary also found some other connections.

“I knew the basketball side of it and how Indiana has been a very good program the last few years,” she said. “When I started looking into it, I had some family up in Indiana and a even a couple of grads on my mom’s side. But at the end of the day, Indiana checked the boxes off and that’s the decision I made.”

It was a very different recruiting process amid the coronavirus compared to coming out of Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park, Texas.

The Cardaño-Hillary family moved from Spain to Texas when Nicole was 12, and it was after that when basketball became more than a hobby, although school turned out to be the biggest adjustment.

“The schooling was definitely a big culture shock,” she said. “We had spent winters and summers in Colorado, so we knew the American lifestyle but weren’t aware of how different the schools were. We went to a Catholic all-girls school in Spain, but my sister and I definitely adjusted well.

“We missed everything about Spain, but there’s great things here. We still go back to Spain to visit friends and family, so it’s a good deal — a little bit of the best of both worlds.”

Cardaño-Hillary became one of the best in the college basketball world while at George Mason, winning A-10 Rookie of the Year as a freshman before player of the year honors as a sophomore. The team struggled more in her junior year, though her scoring dipped only slightly (18.3 ppg) en route to second team all-conference.

Now she’s ready to play a different role if necessary and when necessary.

“I think we can challenge each other, the team and I,” Cardaño-Hillary said. “It will be different. I’m anxious to develop as a player and play alongside these girls that are at a high level. I’m looking to have them make me better, and I’m just very excited to meet the team and get to know them on a personal level.”


  1. How can you not love this attitude? As I have said before, I think she is going to be very instrumental in the success of IU next year or the year after whenever she will be eligible? Go Hoosiers!!

  2. Awesome attitude and glad she chose IU in the end. I just wish she had made this decision last year so we could have her for 2 yrs, according to Nikki that may not have been possible with the spanish national games. I also had my doubts about her being a grad transfer as I mentioned it more than once , once to Jeremy and then running by it in other posts. So either she will possibly be a running mate this season at times to Patberg and Penn or next season to Berger and Paige , and Mcneil.

  3. Question/Comment: I like how Jeremy inserts himself into answering questions and engaging some of those who comment regularly on the women’s hoops threads. Being that Jeremy is now the ‘Big Cheese’ on Scoop, it sort of elevates the prestige of those far too long put at the back of the basketball classroom on Scoop (as in those who just comment on women’s basketball).
    When Jeremy talks, people listen. I mean, he is the most senior member of HT’s sports staff …and he’s the ominous ‘Oz’ behind the moderator curtain (at least that’s my understanding Jeremy does all the “moderating”/censoring..I guess he could just act as if he’s giving final approval for comments).

    Anyhow….You guys should feel lucky he’s around. I always felt Dopirak used to do the same on the men’s hoops side of things. He would enter the fray (sometimes to a fault as he flirted with the “danger zone” of favoritism and abandoning true objectivity with posters…which can then venture into questions of objectivity with a story). But I liked the fact he was available to sort of quell disagreements and clarify situations/questions.
    So why does Blau not do the same? Does he fear the ‘danger zone?’

    I miss the feeling of importance and having a ‘Big Cheese’ jump into discussions on the men’s threads. I guess the women have earned the recognition and are long overdue. They’ve certainly done more than our men’s program of late….or have they? I’m not really sure. Crean did have 3 Sweet Sixteens and some BigTen titles…..But I suppose our standards are higher for the men’s program. I supposed that baggage comes with dusty banners and the expectations that never die (eternal “Hoosier Rising”).

    And then there’s that question: Is that really fair? The journalist covering women’s hoops gets to feel he/she is writing on the more successful program than the journalist covering the one with unfair/elevated expectations…?

    1. A couple quick thoughts here:
      1) I think part of the reason you see me jump in on women’s basketball is because of the lesser amount of coverage. I know people sometimes have questions or just would like to know more, so I try to do my best to provide some insight. And in the case of these new recruits, I might be the only one to talk to them so far under the circumstances.
      2) Men’s basketball has a saturated market of coverage, not to mention opinions, so unless you have a specific question, I’m more inclined to let you guys carry on.
      3) Jon is new to the beat, so I think he’s trying to make sure he’s sufficiently educated before weighing in.

  4. Isn’t a new ‘Top Gun’ movie supposed to be coming out this summer? Be a good time to bring back “Danger Zone Dustin” for a Scoop reunion….

    Yikes… my character input/CAPTCHA thingamajig was ‘DUD5‘ …..Would make a good new screen name. Downing’s5th….to H4H/Harvard for Hillbillies…to DUD5? It’s now under consideration. smh is also under consideration.

  5. Its been pretty obvious that thruout hoosier nation mens basketball takes preference with full arenas compared to the measly 3k of women and thats sad. There has been a renaissance period for womens success in BBall that has over-shadowed the mens game but you wouldnt know it from the womens crowds, but now considering the situation we are all in how much will that and should that change. Also Im quite aware there are those that spend equal time commenting here and on the mens side, but there are a select few of us who are strongly devoted to the womens side. But ,,, how will things change when sports do kick in again, will there be a 2 seat separation in between spectators for the mens game,,,, wont seem to matter for the women since its never more than 1/4 capacity in any game .

    1. That’s an interesting question, Steve W. Sky boxes don’t look so glamorous when stands are 1/3 full. It’s called a “concessions stand” for a reason. The “concession” may just be you’re gonna get the virus while standing in line to get food.
      I wonder if a fan will have to buy the the two empty seats above, below and side to side to maintain social distancing? Your ticket price just go quadrupled…but you’ll now longer have to worry about spilling your drink on innocent bystander.
      Maybe we should we just install sofas to replace the chairs?

      One other option: Manequins or blow-up dolls (also known as the average Purdue fan) for every 2 of 3 seats? Finally, I’ll have someone to talk to at games. Will there be extra artificially piped in crowd noise? Televised games will sound like old sitcoms?

      Very strange times ahead….What will the new normal be? Sports without rabid fans could kill a lot of desires to want to be on a stage…For all the world is just a stage.

  6. The current covid 19 crisis, and not just this crisis but there is some sort crisis as in plenty to go around can create new perspectives. Will they? Short term or long term or temporary or permanent? A little or a lot? Maybe, maybe not.

  7. The transfer portal this off season is looking like a game of musical chairs. Two starters transferring out of Maryland and one starter transferring in from Miss. State in Chloe Bibby. But its still unknown if these transfers will play immediately or have to sit out a year. The vote on the new rule coming on May 20 to see if it passes, then if it does when it will take effect. Guessing there will be more transfers as time goes on.

  8. In professional basketball and football and baseball I suppose what team are fans really cheering for? Sometimes over the course of a couple years a particular team is made up of several teams from around the country and every player does their own sales job. Example, Phillip Rivers now gives 25 million reasons he loves a blue horse shoe. It’s only a figment of imagination that fans are cheering for the team they think they are.

  9. Its nice that they are showing some of the womens classic games over on the hoosier site, but I opted to go over and re-watch the IU vs Mich St. longest game ever in the BIG tourney,, the overtime win that wasnt because of the clock malfunction, the 38 pts career high for Cahill, a 4 OT thriller for the ages. Because of the lack of depth Buss and Cahill played the entire 60 minutes as did McCutcheon for State. I never tire of that game and I was present to see it live.

  10. SteveW, I was also there, best collage basketball game that I have ever seen Men’s or Women’s! The length of that game was the reason they lost the next day to # 2 seed Maryland by 13 points. Against Maryland the game was really tight until the middle of the third quarter where they collectively lost their legs. Not only did Cahill and Buss play the entire game, but the other 3 starters played the entire 4 overtimes. Late in the 3rd quarter and in the 4th quarter all of their shots were falling short due to fatigue. And of course Maryland didn’t play the day before due to their bye. That year was our best chance ever to finally beat Maryland but, circumstances bit us again? What a magnificent effort by our ladies on that day! Go Hoosiers!!

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