USM men’s basketball signs 5
From the University of Southern Mississippi Sports Information
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) -- The University of Southern Mississippi men’s basketball program brought in a trio of guards and two forwards to open the spring signing period.
The signees included Pearl River Community College All-American guard Tae Hardy, local standout guard Blake Roberts from Oak Grove High School and one of New Orleans’ top prospects, guard Jaron Pierre.
The Golden Eagles also added 6-foot-10 center Javaria Belton of Calhoun Falls, S.C., and forward Mark Jaakson of Tallinn, Estonia.
- Hardy, who was named Georgia’s Class 5A prep player of the year in 2017, helped the top-ranked Wildcats to an undefeated season, averaging 16.6 points, 3.7 assists and 3.6 steals per game.
Playing for NJCAA coach of the year, Chris Oney, the 6-2, 180-pound Hardy shot 52.1 percent from the floor and 84.2 percent from the foul line.
After playing a season at Believe Sports Academy in Athens, Tenn., Hardy started at East Carolina University before transferring to PRCC. Hardy appeared in 23 games with nine starts with the Pirates, averaging 2.3 points and 1.2 assists per game.
“I couldn’t be more excited to have a young man like Tae Hardy,” USM coach Jay Ladner said. “He’s a high-character young man and floor leader, which is what you look for in a point guard. He’s a leader on and off the floor, mentally and physically.
“He was the player of the year in Georgia and comes out of an outstanding Pearl River program, where he was the best player on the nation's best team. He brings so much to the table."
- Belton was a three-star recruit out of Moravian Prep, ranked as one of the top prep centers in the nation (No. 42). He also played at Kernersville (N.C.) West Prep and Calhoun Falls Charter School.
“Javarzia is the biggest kid I have ever signed,” Ladner said. “I've never seen a physical specimen like Javarzia at his age, a solid rock at 6-10 and 275 (pounds). You'd wonder about his mobility, but he's athletic, has good hands and gives us a body type that we don't have often.
“Javarzia is a skilled kid from really good prep program. He resembles [graduating senior] Boban Jacdonmi down low. He's gonna be a great Golden Eagle."
- Jaackson, a 6-7, 200-pound former teammate of current USM sophomore wing Artur Konotsok, averaged 11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season with Get Better Academy in Prague, Czech Republic.
His coach, Julian Betko, played his college ball at Clemson University and Butler University. He was a team captain for the Butler team that finished ranked No. 13 in 2008.
“Mark is a young man that we identified last year,” Ladner said. “He played at the Get Better Academy, which is the same program as Artur Konontsuk. He couldn't come last year, but he's a skilled 6-foot-7 guard that can shoot the ball.
“Mark is athletic and gives us long-range scoring threat opposite [LaDavius] Draine that can put the ball in the basket. He's a high-character guy, which is the type of kid we are looking at."
- Pierre was a three-star prospect at St. Augustine High School who was the fourth-ranked player out of Louisiana.
The 6-foot 4, 180-pound Pierre earned first-team All-State honors, averaging 27 points, seven rebounds, four assists a game as St. Augustine went 31-2.
“Jaron is a player that will put a lot of smiles on fans' faces,” Ladner said “He's long, athletic and the best player out of the New Orleans area and Catholic League, which produces some great players. He comes from a famous St. Augustine program, where he played for legendary coach Mitch Johnson.
“Jaron is a long, athletic, tough skill-guard that can play multiple positions. He's going to be an outstanding player that will lead us to a lot of success."
- Roberts averaged 10.6 points a game as a senior, scoring nearly 850 points in his Oak Grove career.
The 6-2, 190-pound Roberts was a three-year selection to the All-Region 5-6A and Lamar County Tournament teams.
The Warriors won the regional tournament title in 2019 and the regular-season crown in 2020.
His father, Lee, started three years at quarterback for the Golden Eagles (1996-98).
“Blake fits the mold of what we want in our basketball players,” Ladner said. “He has great character, is a serious student, hard-nosed, tough and dedicated.
“Blake has a strong Southern Miss lineage and can really shoot it. We look forward to great things from him."
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