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Ex-Coronado star Jaden Hardy relishes chance with Mavericks

Jaden Hardy’s name wasn’t called as early in the NBA draft as he expected.

The Coronado High graduate and ESPN’s No. 2-ranked prospect in the class of 2021 fell to the second round, taken at No. 37 by the Sacramento Kings, who then traded his draft rights to the Dallas Mavericks.

When the 6-foot-4-inch guard was selected, he said he was excited to be joining a championship-caliber team coming off an appearance in the Western Conference finals and is looking forward to his future.

“I don’t look at it as pressure,” Hardy said after his NBA Summer League debut with the Mavericks. “I look at it as an opportunity to go out there and play the game that I love and give it my all.”

Hardy decided to forgo college and go to the G League to play for the Ignite, the NBA’s alternate route for prospects. He averaged 21.2 points in 13 games.

The decision appears to have benefited Hardy, according to Dallas’ summer league coaches, who have been pleasantly surprised with his development in Las Vegas.

“There’s a lot to learn, and I think his experience in the G League is expediting that learning process,” Mavericks summer league coach George Galanopoulos said. “He’s very coachable. It’s probably the most impressive thing about him.”

Hardy said the style of play at the summer league is similar to that of the G League, with the only notable difference being an increased level of talent with NBA players and top draft picks.

The Mavericks went 0-5 in Las Vegas, but Hardy played in all five games and averaged 15 points, including a 28-point performance against the Chicago Bulls in his first game.

Hardy’s playmaking and scoring ability caught the Mavericks’ attention, and their decision-makers think he has a bright future with the team.

“He’s a shooter, he’s physical, he can get to the rim,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “He’s got room to improve, and he’s a hard worker. He just turned 20, so there’s a lot of upside.”

Hardy said his focus in the offseason will be to work on improving his game shape for the next level and to build off his feedback from the Mavericks to improve on defense.

“I need to challenge myself defensively to be a better defender,” he said. “I need to be in the right places and spots when I’m on defense.”

Hardy knows he will have to prove himself again when preseason camp starts to earn his spot on the roster. He thinks he can make an immediate impact to help Dallas reach its goal.

“We want to win the championship,” said Hardy, who will be playing with guard Luka Doncic, one of the NBA’s bright young stars. “I know this is a team that just came from the Western Conference finals, so we want to be right back there competing for a championship. I’ll do whatever I need to do to help the team win.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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