Status: UK target
Shooting guard | 6-4 | 190
School: Coronado (Nev.)
Hardy is regarded as the best shooting guard prospect in the 2021 class, and Kentucky pounced on his recruitment with an early scholarship offer. The Cats picked up several predictions in their favor in the months following that offer, but Hardy’s recruitment is looking more murky going into his senior season.
Still, UK obviously made an early impression, with John Calipari traveling to Nevada to visit with Hardy early in the 2019 fall recruiting period, a time when the UK coach was still hard at work on targets for his 2020 class. UK’s team then practiced at Hardy’s high school to begin its two-game trip to the Las Vegas area during the 2019-20 season.
“When Coach Calipari walks in a gym and comes to see a kid like Jaden — I can honestly tell you, it meant the world to him,” his high school coach, Jeff Kaufman, told the Herald-Leader. “It was something that he takes very serious. And something that he really wanted and something that he’s been working for. It’s an offer, but — for these kids — it’s a big accomplishment. He was very humbled. He was very respectful. He was excited that Coach came to see him in person.”
Hardy is the type of versatile perimeter scorer that Calipari covets, and his coach told the Herald-Leader that he would have visited UK for Big Blue Madness if that event hadn’t conflicted with USA Basketball’s annual October minicamp. Hardy never made it to Lexington before the NCAA banned all recruiting travel in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Going into the fall, UCLA and Oregon are getting more buzz in recruiting circles, and a jump straight to the G League is also seen as a real possibility.
Hardy averaged 30.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game and earned MaxPreps.com first-team junior All-American honors. He had several high-scoring games, including a 62-point performance in which he rallied his team from a 21-point deficit.
“He’s taken that a step above when I’ve seen him play this year. He’s been great with the ball. He’s made guys better. I’ve seen him communicating a lot more. He’s just added elements to his game that maybe you saw in flashes (previously) but not all the time. And what I really like about him is he plays at a different pace than everyone. And when I say that, I don’t mean that he plays faster. What he does is he doesn’t get sped up by things. If he gets down, he doesn’t get crazy. If he gets too high up, he doesn’t get crazy.”
-Recruiting analyst Eric Bossi