2021 five-star guard Jaden Hardy is officially headed to the NBA G League.
After Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news earlier today, the consensus top-three prospect confirmed the news in an announcement on Instagram Live late Saturday evening.
“I have decided to forgo college, turn pro and play for the NBA G League Team Ignite,” Hardy announced.
Five-star guard Jaden Hardy officially signs with the NBA G League pic.twitter.com/6h5xSKShSR
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) May 16, 2021
Unsurprisingly, had he turned down the professional route, Hardy says Kentucky was among the top contenders to land his services. UK joined the likes of UCLA, Michigan, Oregon and Arizona as schools he hoped to see in person on visits.
The no.2 player in the ESPN 100
Jaden Hardy is @nbagleague bound.
He tells ESPN.
— Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) May 16, 2021
Hardy, the No. 3 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite Player Rankings, decided to sign with the G League over offers from Kentucky, UCLA and Arizona, among others. The five-star prospect is considered a consensus top-three prospect in the senior class, with ESPN and Rivals both listing Hardy as the No. 2 overall prospect in the class, with 247Sports listing him at No. 3.
At one point, Kentucky was widely seen as the favorite to land the dynamic scoring threat, with Corey Evans of Rivals.com – now with the Oklahoma City Thunder – even writing back in June of 2020 that Hardy ending up anywhere but UK “would be one of the bigger surprises” of this recruiting cycle.
“It is still a bit early to judge with the 2021 class, but there is one prospect that many assume is practically done for Kentucky and that is Jaden Hardy,” Evans said at the time. “If Hardy were to select any program but Kentucky, it would be one of the bigger surprises in the 2021 cycle. Whenever the Wildcats offered (in 2019), Hardy was put on commitment watch.”
“They say that their best shooters shoot the ball, and they see me as a shooter,” Hardy told KSR back in December of 2019. “They think I can come in there and make an impact right away. … Kentucky is recruiting me really hard.”
From that point on, though, the G League got involved and quickly emerged as the heavy favorite to land the five-star guard. UK made a late push following the hires of Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman to the staff, but the sell of exposure and stardom on college basketball’s biggest stage was never enough to overcome the money that comes with the professional route.
Now, Kentucky will turn its attention to Georgia guard transfer Sahvir Wheeler to close out its backcourt, joining the likes of TyTy Washington, Kellan Grady, CJ Fredrick and Dontaie Allen in 2021-22.