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Detroit's Jaden Hardy, brother Amauri ready for NBA Draft, future opportunities


Jaden Hardy, a Detroit native and former five-star basketball prospect, is projected to be a first-round pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft. He's had an atypical road in getting there, though.

Hardy, a 6-foot-4 guard, had offers from several elite college programs by the time he was a senior in 2021. From Michigan to Kentucky and virtually everywhere in between, Hardy had his pick of where he wanted to go.

He did, however, have an obscure end to his senior year at Coronado High School in Nevada, marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, and he didn’t finish his final season after opting out in January 2021.

Regardless, Hardy still enjoyed McDonald’s All-America honors and was ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 combo guard in the country, due in large part to the massive junior season he had at Coronado, where he averaged 30.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.4 assists.

But then Hardy decided to take a relatively new path to get to the NBA, one first started in 2020 that allowed high school recruits to forgo college and join the G League’s Ignite team to compete professionally for a year.

After that season, players would be eligible to enter the draft. The program’s biggest success story thus far is Jalen Green, who was drafted second overall by the Houston Rockets in 2021 and averaged 17.3 points in his rookie season.

Hardy is looking to follow a similar path.

“When I made my decision to go to the NBA G League Ignite, I just felt like it was the best route for me. I was ready to turn pro,” Hardy said in a media teleconference Tuesday. “So, I felt like I was ready to be a pro and ready to work on my game full time. Playing in the NBA G League … you get to play against NBA-level competition, and I feel like that’s going to help me in the long run.

“Being able to play in that NBA spacing, and being able to play with the NBA shot clock and just being able to learn out there and learn the terminology. I feel like it could push me ahead of those guys that played in college.”

However, playing against professionals does have its downsides.

Hardy’s draft stock took a tumble after he struggled to find a rhythm early with the Ignite. His counting stats still looked good — he averaged 19.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 25 games between the Ignite Tour and Showcase — but his efficiency left something to be desired.

The Detroit kid who moved to Nevada just before high school shot 37.6% from the field, 30.9% from three-point range and 79.4% from the free-throw line in the G League. His knack for putting the ball in the bucket was still there, but he just couldn’t seem to do it as efficiently.

He also drew criticism for his defense and playmaking abilities, or lack thereof. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie has Hardy ranked 20th on his big board and CBS has him ranked 23rd, just below players such as Patrick Baldwin Jr., Jalen Williams and Kennedy Chandler.

“It was a tale of two seasons (for Hardy in the G League),” Vecenie said in his 2022 NBA Draft Guide. “He struggled immensely early due to inefficient play as he adjusted to the speed of professional basketball.

“By the second half of the year, Hardy had clearly taken a leap as a passer and playmaker and really started to consistently knock down shots from distance. Took him some time, but he figured it out on some level.”

Family ties

Being just 19 years old and going through these struggles can’t be easy. Everyone loves to criticize, and it’s difficult for a young person like Hardy to block out all the noise and just focus on basketball.

Perhaps it was made a bit easier because of a familiar face playing alongside him all season long.

Hardy’s older brother, Amauri, was also on the Ignite last season. Amauri spent three seasons at UNLV and one at Oregon before averaging 6.2 points in 17.1 minutes per game for the Ignite in 2021-22.

His best statistical season in college was his junior year with the Rebels, where he put up 14.5 points per game in 32 games, including 30 starts. Amauri was a three-star recruit after starting his high school career at Southfield High and coming out of North Farmington High School in 2017.

“I feel like that experience was great, just being able to have my brother alongside me and us playing our first years as pros together,” Jaden said. “I feel like it was a great experience of just having him by my side, always there to lift me up and help me through when I was down.”

Jaden and Amauri grew up hooping in Detroit, a city they both still rep proudly. Amauri said he and Jaden have been to pretty much every gym in the metropolitan area.

“Jaden (was) watching everything that Amauri was doing (when he was young),” their father, Ramsey, told The News. “Then, once they got to a certain age where they were able to actually play together, compete at the same time on the court, that’s when it got interesting (and they had) more battles.”

Amauri, 24, and Jaden have both taken vastly different, yet unique, paths to get to this point. Amauri played four seasons in college before trying to make the jump to the NBA, where he went undrafted in 2021.

But their journeys brought them together last season, and now they both have the opportunity to get to the league at the same time. Jaden said he’s worked out for several teams in the pre-draft process, including the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder, among others. He also mentioned that he met with the Pistons on his pro day and said the interview “went well.”

As for Amauri, he has the chance to sign with a team this offseason as a free agent after showing what he could do in the G League. He said he’s “100% confident” that he’s going to get a shot.

“It’s about being able to seize the opportunity,” Ramsey said. “They’ve both got the same goals, but different paths.”

No matter what happens, though, one thing is certain. Amauri will continue to be in Jaden’s corner for the rest of their careers, being that supportive big brother he’s always been.

“I’m extremely happy for (Jaden),” Amauri told The News. “He dedicated himself and he made countless sacrifices (to get here). And regardless of where he goes, it just goes to show you that not many people have this opportunity. He took advantage of it and his dream is about to come true of playing in the NBA.

“Hopefully, one day, he can look back and be able to say, when he’s done playing basketball, that he left everything out there on the floor. That he gave everything that he had to his family, to his friends (and) to the game of basketball, and that there’s nothing for him to regret.”

rsilva@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Rich_Silva18