Four years ago, Jerrick Harding had no Division I scholarship offers.
That memory was fresh in his mind Wednesday when the Wichita native and former Southeast star took to Twitter to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft following his junior season at Weber State. Harding averaged 21.4 points and was named first-team all-conference in the Big Sky for the second straight season.
“I’m always going to have a chip on my shoulder,” Harding told the Eagle. “I feel like I’ve always been overlooked, really my whole basketball career. So I’m going to keep that chip on my shoulder wherever I go.”
Harding believed in himself, but even he has been taken aback by the whirlwind of the last four years.
As a senior at Southeast, he averaged 27.8 points, becoming the second player in City League history to win the scoring title three times, led the Golden Buffaloes to the Class 6A championship game and capped it off by being named the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year.
Weber State took a chance on 6-foot-1, 170-pound Harding and he has since blossomed. He was a scoring punch off the bench as a freshman, then exploded onto the scene last season and averaged 22 points on 53-percent shooting. After three seasons, Harding ranks fifth in Weber State history in career scoring with 1,621 points and ranks first all-time with his 87.2-percent career free throw shooting.
And now he will find out how his game stacks up through the NBA Draft process.
“It’s a lot hitting me all at once,” Harding said. “This is my dream. This is my end goal. But I know it’s everybody’s dream who plays basketball and I have to find a way to separate myself.”
Rule changes made earlier this year by the NCAA allow Harding to sign with a certified agent and also retain his college eligibility if he goes undrafted. He must request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee and notify Weber State’s athletic director by 5 p.m. on the Monday following the draft. Harding’s agent can pay for meals and transportation for the player and his family during the agent selection process and for meetings with pro teams.
The success of Harding can be an inspiration for players coming out of the City League, according to former Southeast coach Melvin Herring, who coached Harding for all four years.
“It’s allowing kids to look at themselves and believe, ‘I can do that too now,’” Herring said. “Wichita hasn’t had anybody in a while that’s going to the places he’s going to go to. It gives the kids at home, the kids that are dreamers, the kids that want to believe someone to aspire to. I’m excited for Jerrick and I’m excited for the city of Wichita.”
Herring says Harding’s success does not surprise him after seeing up-close his day-to-day work ethic while at Southeast.
“I remember calling schools his senior year and no one believed the things I said this kid can do,” Herring said, laughing. “I knew he was special when he first showed up as a freshman. You could just see his style, his mentality that he was more advanced than other kids. And then as the years went on, I saw how hungry he is. All he needed was that right school, that right fit and Weber State was it.”
Harding (6-1, 175) is under-sized for an NBA point guard, but his scoring prowess at Weber State will likely make at least some teams put him through workouts.
He is a knock-down three-point shooter, as he has made 39.4 percent on 383 career attempts. For being only 6-1, Harding was still able to get to the rim (3.2 makes per game) and finish at a high clip (62.6 percent).
Harding will continue to train in Ogden, Utah through April, but could return to Wichita after the end of school. He would then go through NBA workouts in May, ultimately learning his fate at the NBA Draft in New York City on Thursday, June 20.