Coach believes UK basketball fan base will love signee Joey Hart

Published 4:30 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

If Noah Hawkins is right, Kentucky basketball fans will like John Calipari’s most recent signee a lot.

“He is 18 years old but has the maturity of an adult. You would think he is 50,” said Hawkins, who has known Hart since he was 5 years old. “The UK fan base will love him and how respectful he is. He’s a great kid and player.”

The 6-5, 180-pound Hart is a top-five player in Indiana and averaged 23.7 points per game for Linton-Stockton High School and shot about 40 percent from 3-point range. The Miners were Class AA state runner-up with a 29-2 record and he was named to the Indiana All-Star Team but missed the game against Kentucky because of a turf toe injury.

Email newsletter signup

He was part of a sectional championship team for four years and has more versatility and athleticism than some expect.

“He is an excellent shooter. His biggest strength in his shooting is he is open when he is not open. He can get his shot off. He knows the difference in the SEC versus high school but he’s 6-5 and has a great vertical (jump) that he uses well on his jump shot,” Hawkins said. “He has a very high release point on his shot.

“He’s got more bounce to him than most people realize and uses it on his shot. He gets open because he shoots above the defense. A 6-9 guy was on him in the state finals and he went up above him. He can get his shot but he’s also going to attack the rim and score.”

Hawkins’ 11-year-old son watches basketball a lot with his father. They go to Bloomington to watch the Indiana Hoosiers play and Indiana Pacers games.

“We were sitting on the baseline at a IU game watching warmups and he said he wanted to go to the concession stand. I said didn’t he want to watch what the players were doing. He said, ‘No, Joey does all that.’ He had no interest in watching them dunk and stuff because he sees it every day with Joey,” Hawkins said.

Off the court, Hawkins says Hart is very mild-mannered and a player youngsters like.

“Joey is an incredible role model for my son and other kids,” Hawkins said. “I organize our youth basketball program and kids love Joey to death. As a coach and dad of a young boy, Joey is the kid you want your son looking up to.

“He doesn’t complain about things. He is very quiet off the court and I really don’t know how to emphasize just how quiet he is. He’s never in trouble. He’s a gym rat and just a good kid.”

Hawkins always thought he was a gym rat but says Porter showed him what a “real gym rat” was really like.

“I open the gym at 6:30 (a.m.) and he will already have a workout done and be ready to go for another one,” the coach said. “He’s always working. His dad coached against me in high school and then I started coaching with his dad.

“We are a small southern Indiana town but a basketball hotbed. People live and die with every game around here. His athleticism and bounce are the kind you just don’t see in this area. He’s not just a catch and shoot guy.”

Hart originally signed with Central Florida but was released from the school in mid-May. Once he did, Kentucky got involved quickly.

“I was honestly surprised that there were not more Power Five schools involved all along with him,” Hawkins said. “There are roles to fill on every team. As a coach, you’ve got to have kids to fill roles. You don’t need five guys who can score or five who can rebound. You’ve got to have guys who fill roles and do their jobs. He can fit most systems and fill roles, so I was not surprised to see Kentucky reach out or him pick Kentucky.”