2021 five-star guard Jaden Hardy is the best available vantage point in high school basketball, but only for nine days. After hinting at a two-week timeline on a decision earlier this week, the sharp sniper confirmed that a commitment came on May 15 with, among others, the G League, UCLA, Kentucky and Oregon listed as finalists.
Hardy’s recruitment has certainly been interesting. The UK quickly established itself as the overwhelming favorite early in the process back in 2019, but the G-League has since emerged as the most likely option for the dynamic scoring threat throughout 2020. With professional buzz growing, Kentucky took a back seat in recruiting with UCLA since joining forward as the school to keep an eye on whether he ultimately decides to reject the pros.
In short, the UK has been seen as No. 3 in recent months as the majority of the basketball world has assumed that Hardy will eventually sign with the G League. As John Calipari once put it, he simply refuses to be a hat on the table for high-profile prospects anymore. If Hardy’s mind persists, it is certain.
But here’s the catch: Kentucky pitch now is a whole different one than it was over the last year. Hell, it’s different today than it was to start the week.
After arguably the worst season in Kentucky basketball history, Calipari hit the reset on the program. He is in the process of bringing new faces to the list, and he has already audited the entire coaching staff, bringing his most trusted confidant and ace recruiter Orlando Antigua along with his Illinois coach counterpart and guard guru Ron ‘Chin’ Coleman. The offers – which have been rumored for almost a month at this time – were officially announced on Thursday morning.
“I’m excited that (Antigua) would be back here with us to get our program back where we know it should be,” Calipari said. “… Coleman is in the same shape as Orlando. … Hage is a grinder, a person who enjoys that time in the gym with the kids to help add value to your current players, yet he never takes his eyes off the lifeline of our recruiting program. ”
Calipari wants “to get our program back to where we know it should be.” The days when the British head coach could hand-pick his list, rake in top-five players with relative ease, stack the deck with ridiculous talent from top to bottom on his way to deep NCAA tournament races and great success in the NBA draft. He did it with Antigua in the staff the first time and he brought him back to bring that swagger and energy back to Lexington with him.
And what better way to rekindle the fan base and push Kentucky back to the top than to pull it back after victory in Hardy’s recruitment?
It’s no surprise that Hardy, a consensus top-three prospect and widely regarded as the best shooter and clean scorer in high school basketball regardless of class, is interested in the G-League. He is a player who deserves to make money playing this game, rather than later. He is an effortless shooter with unlimited range and draws comparisons to NBA superstar Bradley Beal. If he wants to make a million dollars through salaries and connections while training with NBA scouts and playing against league veterans with the G League, you can not blame him.
But if even there is a small chance that Hardy is seriously considering the college route, it’s an option Kentucky simply cannot pass on. And they have to do what it takes over the next nine days to make it happen.
Are you looking for a little glimmer of hope? Look no further than 2020 five-star guard Jalen Green’s situation last season.
When he came in as the overall prospect No. 2 with offers from all over the country, Green chose to reject the college route in favor of the G-League. In his lone after-school, pre-NBA season, he proved he was an elite player against former NBA veterans and players still fighting for a shot in the league, averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2 , 8 assists pr. Competition. He was considered a challenger for the overall No. 1 pick that went into the year, and in terms of pure talent and production, he did nothing to harm his draft.
However, in ESPN’s latest update of the best available prospects going into the draft, Green came in as No. 4 overall and sat behind people like Cade Cunningham (OK State), Evan Mobley (USC) and Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga). In The Athletics’ latest update? Nr. 4 overall behind the same three college standouts. NBC Sports? No. 4. Sports Illustrated? No. 4. CBS Sports? Nr. 4.
Green is still expected to be a top-five pick, but he is expected to come off the board after three of college basketball’s biggest stars. And the former five-star election has noticed the slight decline, taking to Twitter to acknowledge that there would have been a legitimate conversation about the overall No. 1 election if he had gone to college last season.
“I certainly know that if (I) went to college, it would (would have been) another talk about (who goes) number 1,” Green said in a tweet that has since been deleted. “It’s good, but I loved the G League. It prepared me for a college move. I have (not) stopped working. ”
Probably a good recommendation to go to College pic.twitter.com/S2tzBfgFQh
– Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) May 5, 2021
Until the season, Green was extremely positive about his G League experience and hoped that future high-profile prospects would follow in his footsteps.
“If you want to learn to be a pro and your ultimate goal is to get into the league, then I think that would be the best choice for you, especially if you want to learn more and just get to know the game,” Green said via Adam Zagoria.
Now that the G-League and college basketball season have gone close, and the draft inches closer, however, it’s clear that his tune has just changed a bit. Looking at the salaries of the rookie scale 2020-21, you can understand his frustration a bit, as Anthony Edwards, No. 1 pick, is expected to earn $ 44.27 million over the course of his four-year rookie deal, while No. 4 pick Patrick Williams is expected to earn $ 32.10 million over the course of his four-year deal.
$ 32 million is still life-changing money, but in the eyes of someone who feels he deserves the No. 1 choice, there is also $ 12 million left on the table that he could have had by going to college.
Interestingly, Hardy previously told Krysten Peek of Rivals.com that he would keep an eye on the Green G League experience and lean on him for guidance as he makes his own decision.
“I just want to see how [the G League] is and how this first year goes for all the best players who chose the route like Jalen Green and Daishen Nix, ”Hardy Peek said back in September. “I want to ask them how they like the team and the coaching staff, and just get their feedback on the whole process before they go to the NBA. I do not know much about it, but it is something I will definitely look at and keep an eye on. ”
They’ve added shooting games in the perimeter, a few anchors in the front row and bench pieces to depth, but Kentucky is still desperately looking for its superstar in the 2021-22 season. Do you want the ball in your hands? Britain currently have zero-point guards signed for next season. Are you looking for shots or points? They are there to take. Do you want exposure? The winning program in college basketball history, one that plays on national television every game and attends countless high-profile events throughout the season, is not a bad place to watch.
“They say their best shooters shoot the ball and they look at me like a shooter,” Hardy told KSR back in December 2019. “They think I can get in there and make an impact right away. … Kentucky is recruiting me really hard. ”
If Hardy considers himself a top-three draft pick with a No. 1 shot overall in 2022 – and he should – it’s hard to argue with the results of this past season. If you really are the best of the best, college basketball spotlight is more exciting than the early cash that comes with signing with the G League.
And for the next nine days, Calipari, Antigua, Coleman, Jai Lucas and Bruiser Flint will have to convince Hardy about it.