Wednesday was National Letter of Intent day for college-bound high school football players throughout the country, but junior guard Tahaad Pettiford managed to keep boys basketball in the news.
Even though he hasn’t played a single minute this season due to a knee injury, it’s hardly a surprise that the four-star point guard from Hudson Catholic has managed to stay in the debate regarding New Jersey’s best facilitators.
The 6-1 Pettiford recently declared his final seven schools on his social media outlets, and then ended all the excitement by verbally committing to Auburn. This announcement ratcheted up the speculation metre.
He chose UConn, Kentucky, Kansas, Seton Hall, UCLA, and Mississippi over Kentucky, Kansas, Seton Hall, and Mississippi. Pettiford may make it official next November during the Division 1 basketball early signing period.
He’ll play one more season at Hudson Catholic under head coach Nick Mariniello in 2023-24, and then he’ll join coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers with the intent of “trying to win a national championship, That’s my goal,” Pettiford said shortly after making his announcement in his high school’s main entrance while surrounded by his parents, Travis Pettiford and Tia Finch, and an anxious gathering of teammates, family, and friends.
“That is the purpose. “I want to win, but my ultimate objective is to become better, help my teammates get better, and then make it to the NBA,” he added.
According to Mariniello, who identified a special quality in Pettiford as a multi-talented player, team leader, and person the moment he stepped onto the floor as a freshman, this is not an unrealistic goal. Pettiford led the Hawks to a 23-3 record and the Hudson County Tournament championship as a sophomore, averaging 18.4 points per game despite often deferring to classmate Elijah Gertrude or anybody else who was open.
Gertrude, a senior signed with Virginia, is also out for the season due to a knee injury, but 10-8 Hudson Catholic has found a way to remain competitive.
“I believe he is a pro. “They’re going to coach him up down there (at Auburn),” Mariniello remarked. “He must improve on the defensive end of the court, but first he must get healthy and endure the process.”
In the past month, there had been rumours that Pettiford could perhaps return to the Hudson Catholic lineup in time for the state tournament later this month. It appears that the majority of this rumour was created by Pettiford’s desire to return to the court.
“He was attempting to return with great effort. “I stated that I am more concerned with your future than your return with us this year,” Mariniello explained. “Selfishly, as a coach, you’d appreciate that, but he’s built differently; I know he did all in his power to return this season.
He stated, “I said, ‘Pump the brakes, pump the brakes, we’ll get back together with all these young players and see what we can do next year.'” It may seem absurd to be discussing next year at this time, but that is the current situation.
As a result of COVID 19 regulations, this is also true on the collegiate level, where underclassmen in a number of sports attempt to insure their futures at least to some degree in the bizarre world of transfer portals and fifth years of eligibility.
After chatting at length with Pearl and assistant coach Ira Bowman, a former star at Seton Hall Prep, Providence College, and Penn, Pettiford believed he had found a home away from home. In September of last year, Pettiford made his only official visit to Auburn, however he did make an unofficial visit to UConn.
“Coaches Bruce and Ira performed an excellent job of recruiting, following up on me and my family, and ensuring that we were doing well,” Pettiford stated.
“However, I believe that Auburn can help me improve my game and advance to the next level. I believe I have a strong rapport with the team and can fit in very well. There is a relationship between the coaches, squad, student environment, and supporters… I absolutely loved it altogether.”
Mariniello has a strong suspicion that his future Auburn teammates would like Pettiford for his genuine pass-first approach.
“He exemplifies how a point guard should play,” remarked Mariniello. “He is a beautiful child. His folks are wonderful. He was an incredible delight to coach.”
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