Still just a junior high school, Joe Girard III is already the all-time leading scorer in New York state basketball history.
On the court, his numbers are incredible.
The 6-foot-1 combo guard from Glens Falls, N.Y., averaged 50 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game this past season. During that run, he broke Lance Stephenson’s all-time scoring mark for a state rich in basketball talent, and he’ll go into his senior season with 3,306 career points. Maxpreps.com named him a first-team All-American for the junior class.
He’s currently among the leaders on the uber-talented Nike circuit in three-pointers (22 over eight games) and is a perfect 27-for-27 from the free throw line so far this spring.
Off the court, he’s an A student and volunteers in his community. (Oh, and he’s also the star quarterback on his school’s football team, leading them to their first state title as a sophomore).
Duke, Syracuse and Michigan are among his top suitors — all have offered scholarships, and head coaches from all three paid him in-home visits last month — but UK is not on his recruiting radar.
“I haven’t heard from Kentucky,” Girard told the Herald-Leader last weekend at the Nike stop in Indianapolis.
He would be glad if the Cats gave him a call.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “I’m interested in everybody who’s interested in me. I’m not going to cut anybody short. I’m here to listen … and to hear what they have to tell me about their program.”
You can never have too much outside shooting — as UK fans have seen in recent seasons — and that’s certainly something Girard can provide.
He’s likely to end his high school career next season with more than 500 three-pointers. He can score from all over the court, and — though he’s not playing against the best competition in the high school ranks — he’s still averaging 14.6 points per game for a balanced Albany City Rocks team on the Nike circuit.
Obviously, Mike Krzyzewski, John Beilein, Jim Boeheim and others think he can play against the best competition in the country. Girard wants to prove it, and he said his time as a football player — he’s 24-1 as a starter in that sport, by the way — helps do that.
“I want to be able to show that I’m tough and be able to show that I’m athletic,” he said. “A lot of times, if you’re a 6-foot-1 guard, you’re kind of seen as just a shooter. But I want to show that I’m athletic and tough and that I can be multi-dimensional on the court. And I play quarterback, so I have to see the whole field. That helps me with my vision in basketball. There’s a lot of stuff that plays off of both sports that helps me in both sports, so I think that’s why I like to play both.”
His recruiting ranking doesn’t reflect his stat line.
Girard is the No. 161 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings for the class of 2019, designated as a three-star player.
That’s far below the area where John Calipari typically recruits. In fact, he’s signed only two prospects from outside the Top 100 rankings in his nearly 10 years as UK’s head coach, and both of those were in-state players (Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis).
Willis barely played at all his first two seasons. Hawkins didn’t average double-digit minutes until his senior year.
Girard says he wants to play for a winning team in college, but he also wants to be part of that winning right away. And he plans to stick around awhile.
“My family is definitely big into academics. I’m going to be a multi-year guy,” he said. “I’m not going to be a one-and-done type player, so I’m going to be there for multiple years.”
That’s not the mentality of a typical Calipari recruit, many of whom have specifically said the UK coach tells them on the recruiting trail that Lexington isn’t the right place if they think they’re three- or four-year players.
It’s the catch-22 of Calipari’s recruiting approach, and Girard is a prime example of the type of prospect UK passes on as a result. Obviously, the end result has often worked out just fine for the Wildcats, who have advanced to four Final Fours and won one national title in Calipari’s nine years on the job.
However, a few of those years, this past one included, have been riddled with frustration as a young group of players with little to no veteran leadership — and, sometimes, not too much outside shooting — are forced to learn quickly while Calipari and UK fans hope they’ll figure it all out by the end.
Next season’s roster could be another with no upperclassmen, depending on what Wenyen Gabriel decides to do this spring. The following season’s could look similar.
Meanwhile, players like Girard — and others talented enough to make a difference, but maybe not talented enough to get a chance at UK right away — will continue to go elsewhere. There’s still a little time for the Cats to get involved with the scoring sensation from New York, but it’d be a surprise if they do.
“I’m definitely going to be signing in November,” Girard said. “That’s definitely my timeline right now. I’m one of those guys who wants to focus on my high school basketball season for my senior year. I got one year left, so I don’t want to have to think about all this decision stuff.”