High School Basketball

Sharp-shooting 6-foot-8 Mr. Basketball contender led John Hardin to Sweet Sixteen

Mickey Pearson, a 6-foot-8 guard who has signed with St. Louis University, leads John Hardin with 25.7 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Mickey Pearson, a 6-foot-8 guard who has signed with St. Louis University, leads John Hardin with 25.7 points and 11 rebounds per game.

The 101st Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen basketball state tournament tips Wednesday at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Below is the team profile for the John Hardin Bulldogs, who will meet Pikeville in the first round at 8 p.m. Wednesday.


Region: 5th

Record: 28-7

Enrollment: 858 (438 boys)

Coach's résumé: Jared McCurry is 82-45 in four seasons at John Hardin.

Probable starters

1) Malik Wright, 6-4, Sr., 15.1 ppg

2) Aaron Scott, 6-0, Jr., 8.1 ppg

3) Mickey Pearson, 6-8, Sr., 25.7 ppg

4) Alex Matthews, 6-5, So., 10 ppg

23) Jachai Walker, 5-10, Jr., 7.5 ppg

How they got here

John Hardin comes into the Sweet Sixteen on a seven-game win streak. The Bulldogs defeated LaRue County 48-46 in the 5th Region finals. Two of their seven losses have come to Sweet Sixteen teams (Scott County and Oldham County).

Players to watch

Mr. Basketball finalist Mickey Pearson has signed with St. Louis University and has lived up to his Division I billing with averages of 25.7 points and 11 rebounds per game as a 6-8 guard. He also leads the team in three-point shooting with 71 makes on 187 attempts for a respectable 38 percent. “A kid that’s 6-8 that can play outside and inside is a tough matchup for people,” said McCurry. What’s also impressed McCurry this year is Pearson’s leadership. “He’s made everybody better around him this year. You saw it really in the region tournament where he really became a great leader for us in getting everybody focused when we were down. He’s done a great job being a leader.” Also scoring in double figures each game are Malik Wright and Alex Matthews. Matthews, like Pearson, averages a double-double per game, pulling in 10.1 boards per game.

Short bench

Hardin’s best season under McCurry has come despite having only eight players on the roster for the first part of the season. They’ve since added another contributor, but have to use a couple of junior varsity players to hold a full scrimmage. And “the coaches like to get in there every once in a while and think we’re still young,” McCurry said, noting they quickly find out that they’re not. But while they might not have many subs, McCurry said “there are no drop offs. All eight of them can play.”

Sweet history

This is John Hardin’s fourth appearance in the Sweet Sixteen making its previous trips in 2006, 2012 and 2013 where it was knocked out in the first, second and second rounds, respectively. The school opened in Hardin County in 2001.

Chris Ware | Herald-Leader staff
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