Jaden Hardy can beat his older brother Amauri — a freshman guard for UNLV’s basketball team — in a game of one-on-one.
At least he thinks he can.
“Last time we actually played I beat him,” the younger Hardy said with a grin, “but I don’t know if he was taking it light on me.”
Jaden, by the way, is also a freshman.
In high school.
Jaden will make his varsity debut for Coronado against Centennial on Wednesday after establishing himself in the summer as one of the top ninth-graders in the nation and one of the best perimeter players in Las Vegas.
Equipped with a muscular, 6-foot-4-inch frame, a pure 3-point stroke and a penchant for finishing through contact, he already boasts scholarship offers from the Rebels, TCU, Washington and Georgia Tech. He also has realistic dreams of playing for a blueblood like Kentucky or Duke.
“I haven’t seen a better freshman,” Cougars coach Jeff Kaufman said. “He’s bigger than Amauri … He doesn’t look like your regular freshman. The upside is unlimited.”
Jaden, of course, acknowledges Amauri as a a key figure in his development.
The two grew up in the Detroit area. Jaden said they spent “countless hours” in the gym with their father, Ramsey, who played college basketball at Tuskegee University and coached both boys throughout their childhood.
Amauri matured into a top-notch floor leader and a four-star recruit — with Jaden on his heels, working to emulate his game and demeanor.
“He got a chance to see my games, see how I played and to see the game from a different view,” Amauri said. “As he started playing basketball, he started playing up in age groups … As far as me being in the gym every day and him being in there with me … he picked up the moves that I use and the attitude of grinding.”
Jaden became attuned to the recruiting process and knew exactly what he needed to do to become a top-flight player. He worked with his dad to perfect his jumper and added other components to his offensive repertoire as he grew taller and longer.
By the time he reached middle school, he was good enough to compete with and against Amauri and his friends, proving himself talented enough to play AAU basketball against older players with The Family — one of the top programs in the Midwest.
Amauri committed to UNLV in April, and the Hardy family moved to Las Vegas in the summer, so Jaden could “continue to watch his brother and see his habits,” Ramsey said.
He enrolled at Coronado and made a favorable impression on Kaufman and the Cougars, who reached the Class 4A state tournament last season.
“When I saw him play, I wasn’t sure it was the right kid,” Kaufman said. “He can just do so much.”
The Hardys attend all the UNLV games, and Jaden has befriended several of the players and learned the intricacies of the college game through Amauri and his experiences.
He believes he’s the best ninth-grader in the country and is eager to prove it in his new hometown.
“I just want it to be great” Jaden said. “Hopefully make to the NBA some day.”
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