MISSOULA — If anyone knows about long journeys in college basketball, it’s Jahshire Hardnett.
He knows all journeys, no matter the length, also come to an eventual end. And his will be with the Montana Grizzlies.
Hardnett will join Montana as a graduate transfer for the 2019-20 season after spending the past two seasons at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Jeff Goodman of Stadium first reported the news on May 2.
Listed at 6 feet, 185 pounds, Hardnett will provide experienced guard depth for the Grizzlies after the graduation of Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine, both of whom leave Montana as two of the program’s all-time greats.
“It was pretty much my relationship with the coaching staff,” Hardnett said of why he joined UM. “They’re back-to-back conference champions and a tournament team, and I always wanted, growing up, to make the NCAA Tournament. I always wanted to be a part of that.”
Hardnett said he was fully aware of the success Montana has had the past couple of seasons. He watched the Grizzlies take on the Michigan Wolverines the past two seasons in the NCAA Tournament.
So once Hardnett hit the transfer portal, associate head coach Chris Cobb reached out, and the former BYU guard saw himself donning the maroon and silver.
“You want to continue that back-to-back-to-back conference championships as much as possible,” Hardnett said. “I know that in a lot of ways I’ll be able to contribute with so many people leaving and so many new faces joining. Me being an older guy, I’ll be able to teach some of the younger guys how to play hard and what it takes to be successful at this level.”
Hardnett, who hails from Gulfport, Mississippi, spent three seasons at Gulfport High School and led the team to a Class 6A state title his junior year. That season, he averaged 22.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. He then spent his senior year of high school at Arlington Day School in Jacksonville, Florida.
Hardnett originally began his college career at Fordham University in New York City. He redshirted that season but opted to leave Fordham and returned to Florida, where he played at Chipola College, a junior college located in Marianna, Florida. There, he was the Panhandle Conference Freshman of the Year and earned first-team conference honors after averaging 13 points, 3.9 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
That first move was eye opening to Hardnett because of the distance he was from his family. He wanted to be closer to family, and Chipola was just over three hours from where he grew up.
But his mother, Monique Phillips, made him realize that at some point he’d have to step outside of his comfort zones and that he couldn’t be close to home forever if he wanted to go to a bigger school.
So, heeding that advice, he joined the Cougars in Provo and spent two seasons there.
“That was the thing, if the best situation was for me to go to Utah, then I needed to go to Utah,” he said, recalling her advice. “Take that situation and try to make it as best you can and that was my mindset.”
Hardnett started in 32 of 35 games in 2017-18, but after starting the first 15 games of the 2018-19 season, he lost his spot in early January. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, a report surfaced that Hardnett had issues with the coaching staff and that he had quit the team after that happened. That report was dismissed by then-coach Dave Rose but Hardnett never saw much of the court down the stretch. His final game with the Cougars was Feb. 7 against Portland as he dealt with a nagging hand injury.
When asked, Hardnett addressed those reports. He said his recruiter, Heath Schroyer, was a big reason why he chose the Cougars and helped him feel comfortable there. But Schroyer took the head job at McNeese State in 2018-19, and Hardnett said once he left he didn’t quite gel with the rest of BYU’s coaching staff as well as he’d liked.
“We were trying to figure each other out,” Hardnett said. “When he left, I was trying to learn about the other coaches, and it was just bad from there because I couldn’t find that person (that had my best interests) because coaches have their guy. So, it was just me trying to find that niche and it just didn’t work out.”
He added, “And getting hurt, all that did was motivate me, and for me to have the season that I had and not playing up to my potential is motivation.”
Hardnett said he found that bond and connection with Cobb and Montana head coach Travis DeCuire.
“For my last year I had to put my trust with one of these programs, and I just felt like the coaches did a great job and that I’ll be able to play my game while I’m there,” he said. “So, I felt like that would be the best situation for me this upcoming year.”
In his career at BYU, Hardnett averaged 7.4 points, 1.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game. He shot at a 44.2-percent clip from the floor and 27.5-percent rate from deep. He played in 55 games for the Cougars, starting in 47 of them.
Whether a smooth ride or one full of bumps along the way, Hardnett knows this stop is his last and that it’s either now or never when it comes to achieving his goals as a college basketball player. And it gives him one last time to appreciate a new opportunity.
“It’s definitely hard because you don’t want to be that guy who ups and transfers continuously,” Hardnett said. “Going from university to university is a hard thing because you’re in a position where you’re trying to figure out the coaches.
“When you come in for one year and go to another program the next year, you’re still trying to find that relationship with the coaching staff and players. So it’s been hard but it kind of molds you into not taking anything for granted.”
There has been plenty of roster movement ever since Montana’s season ended in March. Here is an updated look at the 2019-20 Grizzly roster.
All 13 of Montana’s scholarships are filled again. Incoming senior Sayeed Pridgett is the lone returning starter from last year’s team.
On Wednesday a source told 406mtsports.com that redshirt senior Donaven Dorsey will not be returning to Montana for a potential sixth year. Dorsey spent his first two college seasons at Washington before transferring to Missoula. He sat one year due to transfer rules and missed his second year after having surgery. In his lone season suiting up on the court for Montana, Dorsey appeared in 32 games in 2018-2019, starting in 10. He averaged 6.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-7 post added another threat from deep for Montana and shot 46.1 percent from beyond the arc.
With Dorsey not coming back, Pridgett and Kendal Manuel will be Montana’s two incoming seniors who return from this year’s team next season. Timmy Falls (incoming junior) and Mack Anderson (incoming sophomore) are the two other main returning rotation players from a year ago.
Incoming redshirt junior Tony Miller, a transfer from Seattle Pacific, will be available for Montana after sitting out a year, as will incoming redshirt freshman Eddy Egun. Incoming redshirt freshman Yagizhan Selcuk will be eligible to play in December since he was a mid-year transfer from Towson last season.
Hardnett and Billings native Jared Samuelson will join Montana as grad transfers next season. Samuelson spent the first two seasons of his college career with Montana before transferring to Rocky Mountain College in his hometown, where he played for two years.
San Jose State transfer Michael Steadman rounds out Montana’s 13 scholarships. Steadman will redshirt next season and will play his final season of college basketball in 2020-21.
Incoming sophomore Freddy Brown III and incoming redshirt sophomore Peter Jones make up Montana’s returning walk-ons. Montana will also add a third walk-on in Jett Briceno from Kentridge High School in Kent, Washington. Briceno announced he was coming to Montana via Twitter on May 2.
Freshmen posts Kelby Kramer and Ben Carter both entered the transfer portal in April. Kramer has since joined NCAA Division II Minnesota State in Mankato.