With Kentucky already securing signatures from the likes of Terrence Clarke, BJ Boston, and Devin Askew in the class of 2020, the UK coaching staff has turned its attention to an elite crop of guards in the class of 2021.
At the top of their wish list? 2021 consensus top-ten prospect Jaden Hardy.
Hardy, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard out of Henderson, NV is rated as high as No. 6 overall (ESPN) and as low as No. 9 overall (Rivals). The 247Sports Composite Rankings list the five-star guard as the No. 7 prospect in the class of 2021.
Already holding offers from the likes of Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan, UCLA, Arizona State, Memphis, and USC, among 24 total, Hardy is considered arguably the top scoring guard in the junior class. And though there is still a long ways to go in his recruitment, the early speculation is that UK is in prime position to land the five-star prospect when it comes time for a decision.
Oddly enough, the Kentucky basketball team is in Las Vegas for a two-game roadtrip, with the Wildcats taking home a 69-66 loss to Utah on Wednesday night, followed by an upcoming matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday afternoon. And this week, Hardy – UK signees BJ Boston and Devin Askew are also in attendance – is participating in the annual Tarkanian Classic, which takes place at Bishop Gorman High School in Vegas.
To open the Tarkanian Classic on Wednesday afternoon, Hardy finished with a team-high 33 points en route to a blowout victory, showing off an elite display of shooting, athleticism, and defense. It was one of the most complete performances of his incredibly successful high school career.
2021 top-ten prospect and Kentucky target @JadenHardy1 put on a show at the @TarkClassic. 33 points, lights out from three, elite court vision. Major priority for John Calipari and the UK staff. pic.twitter.com/EQSKtYzhH8
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) December 19, 2019
“I felt like I was more efficient tonight, getting my teammates more involved, my teammates finding me and putting me in the right position to go score,” Hardy told reporters after his 33-point scoring outburst. “[Passing] is something I’ve been working on, something I’ve progressed on. Just trying to be more of a primary ball-handler and get my teammates involved.”
In terms of his recruitment, Hardy says things are going “really well,” though he admits it’s still very early in the process. At some point in the near future, he plans on taking that next step forward.
“It’s been going really well, a lot of schools have been making me a priority,” he said. “They’re calling me, saying they want me, so it’s been going nice right now. I have no, like, timeframe for when I want to cut my list and I don’t have any officials yet. I don’t know when I’m going to plan those, but it’s going to be pretty soon.”
Will Kentucky be one of those schools to receive an official?
“Yeah, I hope to take an official there, for sure,” Hardy told KSR.
What about unofficial visits? Where has he gone thus far and how did they go?
“I took an unofficial to Arizona, USC, UCLA, and Arizona State. I think that’s it,” he said. “I went to Arizona for the Blue and Red Game, so that was in October. And then I went to UCLA when they played UNLV. It was nice, it was a good experience. That was when they played my brother, so to be able to watch my brother and see their campus. For them to be able to welcome me with open arms, it was nice. … Arizona was real nice, the fans loved me, they showed a lot of love.”
In terms of specific schools prioritizing him, the five-star guard said his recruitment has been a whirlwind thus far and it wouldn’t be fair to single out any individual program.
“It’s a lot of schools, I can’t even name them all, but it’s a lot,” he said. “Like, a lot.”
Can he at least address Kentucky’s serious involvement?
“Yeah, Kentucky is recruiting me really hard,” Hardy added.
On Tuesday evening, the Kentucky basketball team landed in Las Vegas and immediately traveled to Hardy’s school, Coronado High School, for a pre-Utah practice session. While the Wildcats practiced, Hardy stayed after his own practice with his father and head coach to watch Kentucky in action.
From start to finish, Hardy paid close attention.
“That was really nice, just to see how they run in practice, how they function,” Hardy said. “And just being able to see, like, those guys [in action]. I played against those guys [in high school and playing on the AAU circuit], so to be able to see those guys again, connect with them again, talk to them about the season, it’s nice.
In terms of his relationship with the Kentucky coaching staff, the five-star guard said UK assistant Joel Justus has done a phenomenal job as his lead recruiter.
“It’s real nice, the coach that texts me the most often is Joel [Justus],” Hardy told KSR. “I’m really close with him, he always texts me to check up on me and see how I’m doing.”
In terms of Kentucky’s specific pitch, Hardy said the UK coaching staff sees him as an instant-impact shooter.
“They say that their best shooters shoot the ball, and they see me as a shooter,” Hardy told KSR. “They think I can come in there and make an impact right away.”