By LARRY VAUGHT
His coach doesn’t want to make Jaden Hardy sound too good to be true but Coronado High School (Nev.) coach Jeff Kaufman can’t help himself.
“He is the best offensive high school player I have certainly seen in the last several years. He’s a phenomenal shooter. No one shoots like him and Kentucky realizes that,” said Kaufman. “He’s the best shooter in the class of 2021, maybe the best overall offensive player in the class. He’s the No. 1 shooting guard but he’s bouncy and gets to the rim.
Kentucky has already extended a scholarship offer to the 6-5, 185-pound junior guard, a consensus top 10 player in the 2021 recruiting class who averaged about 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game as a sophomore. He has a long list of scholarship offers that includes Florida, Texas Tech, LSU, Kansas, Alabama, Memphis, Washington, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and others.
Kaufman says not to think Hardy can only shoot because he can do a lot more.
“If you are up close to him, he will go by you in a second. He has great leaping ability, he’s fearless and he will attack the rim against anybody,” the Coronado coach said. “He’s really a phenomenal passer. We have a game against Bishop Gorman (one of the nation’s best teams) last year and he had seven straight assists.
“He is long at 6-5. He is in great shape. He’s only a junior but has a great body. He just has to fill out. As he gets bigger and strong his upside really is unlimited. He can do so many things with the basketball. He’s really exciting because he’s also a great defender and really good rebounder. More than anything he wants to win and gets his teammates to want to win and do whatever it takes to do that. There are not a ton of high level players that have spirit about him.”
Hardy shot almost 48 percent from 3-point range last year despite putting up a high volume of shots. Teams often also double teamed him but he not only can split the double team to drive inside, but he’s also able to see the floor to find open teammates.
“When teams double team him the ball is up the floor in two seconds (via passing) or he is going by somebody,” Kaufman said. “He is very, very good at imposing his will on the basketball court and does it much smoother and with much less problem than anybody I have seen recently. We are going to use him a lot more at the 1 (point guard) this year.”
Kaufman says Coronado is a highly ranked academic school with a lot of advance placement classes and normally has the highest ACT and SAT scores in the state.
“I know he’s taking chemistry, world history, honors English right now,” Kaufman said. “Last time I checked he had five A’s and one B. That shows a little bit about his character. He lives for basketball but he does everything he’s supposed to do and does it the right way. His dad and mom are wonderful people and with them it is about his development as a person, not just an athlete. That base has led him to what he is today.”
Hardy knows plenty about Kentucky’s basketball history, one reason he was thrilled to get a Kentucky scholarship offer personally from coach John Calipari even though he has more than 25 scholarship offers.
“Once they (Kentucky) showed an interest in Jaden, that’s an honor for any kid,” Kaufman said. “He is really in awe of the whole history of the program and what it represents. He’s not looking to go there just for six months (and then head to the NBA). He’s very enamored with the fans and mystique at Kentucky.”