By LARRY VAUGHT
Jaden Hardy is the No. 1 combo guard in the 2021 recruiting rankings and perhaps the best shooter in that recruiting group. However, there’s another given about Hardy — he never quits playing hard no matter the score.
“That’s the thing about him. He never gets upset with his teammates. He is a good leader. That’s what he does. He just plays,” said Coronado High School (Nev.) coach Jeff Kaufman. “He always looks to make the pass even though we sometimes don’t catch a bunch of them but he never lets that take away from the effort he plays with.”
The 6-5, 190-pound Hardy is a consensus top 10 players in the 2021 recruiting class and coaches, including Kentucky’s John Calipari, love his shooting and motor.
“No matter what, just continue to play hard until the final buzzer,” Hardy said. “Even if things are not going your way, continue to play hard.”
The 2021 recruiting class is not overloaded with combo guards, one reason Calipari offered Hardy a scholarship in September to make sure he knew he was a recruiting priority for the Cats. When UK played two games in Las Vegas before Christmas, Kentucky practiced at Hardy’s high school. He also came to watch UK play when it lost to Utah in Las Vegas.
“It was nice to see them and how they run their practices when they came to our school. It was a good experience for me,” Hardy said.
He’s watched UK play often on TV but took a break from the Tarkanian Classic to see the Cats in person.
“I just wanted to see a game in person,” he said. “They played really hard but just didn’t win. It was a nice atmosphere to see how many fans there were out here to watch them play, too.”
Hardy might guard any position for Coronado because Kaufman says he “wants to stop people” and help his team.
“He is a great rebounder. He has a great body and is in the weight room a lot,” the coach said. “We use him at lot at the 1 (point guard) because he can really make some great passes and he also has the ability to get by people. If you don’t back off him, he will go by you. If you back off, he can shoot over you. He’s really good in transition, too. If you run, and the Wildcats like to run, he will get you the ball or he will score.”
Hardy has about 25 scholarship offers and interest from a lot of other schools indicating more offers will be coming, especially if he continues to play at the level he has recently.
Hardy says he’s looking for a “winning program and coach that will push him” so he can reach the next level.
Kaufman says there’s no recruiting pressure on Hardy midway of his junior season.
“He’s not taken any official visits,” Kaufman said. “He likes the attention but handles it very humbly and very respectfully. He is nice to everybody.
“He’s considering all his options. He has not said I would never go there or this is the greatest thing I have seen. He is respectful to everybody and listens and learns the history. That’s the kind of kid he is.”
Hardy admits he likes Kentucky, something national recruiting analysts are in agreement about.
“I like them a lot. I just like the way they play. He (Calipari) lets guys go out there and play. That’s something I definitely like,” Hardy said.