As one of the top five players coming out of high school last year, Jaden Hardy could have played college basketball at anyHardy of the top collegiate hoop programs in the nation.

Instead, he decided to take his talents to the NBA G League and fulfill a one-year apprenticeship there before graduating to the NBA.

“I feel like I was ready to be a pro,” Hardy said. “And I feel like I would make that same decision if I had to choose it again today, just because me playing against NBA-level talent, I feel like it’s going to help me better in the long run.”

After playing against NBA-level talent in his one year with the G League’s Ignite last season, Hardy was acquired by the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday in a draft day trade with the Sacramento Kings. The Mavs sent second-round picks in 2024 and ’28 to the Kings for Hardy, who Sacramento chose with the 37th overall selection of the draft.

A 6-4, 198-pound shooting guard, Hardy averaged 19.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 24 games for the Ignite last season. But he believes just the experience of playing against pro players has gotten him ready for the 82-game grind of an NBA season, and gives him a decisive edge over players that decided to play college basketball.

“Playing in the G League, that’s NBA-level talent,” said Hardy, who held a press conference Tuesday at the Mavs’ practice facilities. “This year in the G League I was able to play against Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, who were just on the (Golden State) Warriors.

“So playing against those NBA-level talent guys who were just on the NBA championship team, it’s only going to make me better. I feel like playing (against) that NBA-level competition, it shows you what you need to get better at coming into this next season.”

Hardy said he has a chip on his shoulder because most so-called draft experts had him pegged as a first-round draft pick. But when he kept slip-sliding, the Mavs decided to trade their way back into the draft so they could secure his services.

As the last player in the NBA’s coveted green room on draft night, Hardy was thankful the Mavs rushed to get back in the draft.

“I feel like (the Mavs) really want to see me succeed,” Hardy said. “And I’m super glad that they got me.”

And about being the last player in the green room, Hardy said: “It’s always going to be with me, because I was like the last one. But it just added motivation and made me want to work harder, and I’m super excited to be a Maverick.

“So I’m glad they got me and I just can’t wait to work.”

Hardy is especially anxious to be on the floor with Mavs superstar point guard Luka Doncic, who is unquestionably one of the top five players in the entire world.

“I’m looking forward to meeting him and just being able to talk basketball with him and talk about his journey and really picking up on new things from him,” Hardy said. “I really love to watch Luka. I love his game.”

Hardy said he’s heard folks compare his own game to that of James Harden, Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard.

“But those are just comparisons,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got my own way of playing. I’ve got my own style.

“I just can’t wait to get out there on the court and compete against those guys and show them who I am.”

In analyzing his own game, Hardy said: “I would describe my game really different by the way of just me being a three-level scorer, my ability to knock down shots from deep at a high rate, and I feel like just me being able to create for my teammates. I love play-making and being a defender. I feel like with all those tools I can fit really well with this team.

“I feel like I’m going to be able to fit well with the guys and being able to meet with them, and I feel like I’m bringing a lot of energy. I’mHardy bringing young energy and I’m super excited to be here.”

As far as fitting in the backcourt alongside Doncic, Hardy wasn’t coy about that prospect.

“I feel like just coming in and just doing whatever the team needs, I feel like I’m capable of,” he said. “Just like with all the tools that I have to my game, just me being able to shoot and me being to create, I feel like I can fit with this team really well.

“I feel like my ability to shoot the ball, I feel like that translates right on, just me being able to come in and be an outside shooter. That takes pressure off Luka when teams are focused in on him, me being able to knock down those outside shots.”

Overall, Hardy had a full day Tuesday as he met with Mavs general manager Nico Harrison, coach Jason Kidd and other coaches and front office personnel. He said he had “a great conversation” with Harrison and Kidd.

“They sat me down, focused on what I need to get better at and how they see me fitting in with this team and really just going from there, and just looking at summer league and how they envision me being here,” Hardy said. “I feel like they are very cool. They’re very open minded.

“They weren’t sugar-coating anything with me, so I feel like I could talk to them on a personal level. They say they’re here for me and they just want to continue to succeed, so I can’t wait to get to work.”

Hardy also can’t wait to get to play on the Mavs’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which starts on July 8. Hardy averaged 30.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.4 assists as a junior at Coronado High School in Henderson, NV, which is a suburb of Las Vegas.

“That’s going to be super excited going in there and playing as a Dallas Maverick,” Hardy said. “It’s something that I always dreamed of – being able to go play in the summer league.

Hardy“So just going back and being able to play in front of my second hometown (fans), it’s going to be fun.”

Hardy also noted that it’ll be fun to be reunited with center Christian Wood, who the Mavs acquired last Thursday in a trade with the Houston Rockets.

“I’ve been knowing Christian Wood for a couple of years now, so that’s my guy,” he said. “With him having his Vegas roots playing at UNLV, we already knew each other. I feel like we’ve got a good relationship.”

As far as being able to realize his dream of becoming an NBA player, Hardy said he’s still processing everything that entails.

“It’s still hitting me,” said Hardy, who will turn 20 on July 5. “What I learned in the G League is really how to be a pro, taking care of my body, from building good habits, staying after practice, getting those extra reps (and) being in the weight room every day. It just taught me how to be a pro and what it takes to be successful at this level.

“My biggest inspiration is my family, coming from where we come from. I feel like the position I’m in today, it’s a blessing from God.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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