Former Bloomington South guard Johnny Jager will walk on at IU #iubb

Johnny Jager is coming home to realize not one dream, but two.

The former Bloomington South guard will walk on at Indiana this fall, occupying a roster spot for the Hoosiers while also using the opportunity to learn how to become a coach. It’s a unique situation for Jager, who leaves Wabash College after a standout freshman season to take a dual approach to basketball in his hometown.

Jager, the 2015 Herald-Times All-Area Player of the Year, originally went to Wabash to play basketball and study biology with hopes of one day becoming a dentist, but realized after one semester that his heart wasn’t into that pursuit.

“After a lot of soul searching and praying about what I wanted to do, I thought, ‘What better thing to do than coaching?'” Jager said. “I grew up on the basketball court, basketball is what I love to do most and I think I could be good at it. I love the game, I know the game and I should pursue that avenue.”

The chance to do so at Indiana presented itself when Jager met with Tom Crean earlier this summer. Looking for insight on how to break into the coaching business, Jager wanted to pick Crean’s brain.

“What better guy to learn from than him,” Jager said. “We got to talking and he brought up the fact that (former walk-on guard) Harrison Niego transferred and that means they had an open slot on the roster.

“So I was like, ‘Well, since we’re coming to the conclusion that experience and being around the Division I atmosphere and making those connections with people are the best ways, would that slot be available and would you be supportive?’ He said he would advocate for that and that it could do a lot of good for a lot of people. Everything just really fell in line. It’s great.”

On the court at South, Jager built a reputation as a heady point guard with deep range. As a senior for the Panthers, Jager averaged 13.2 points, 5.1 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game, while shooting 54 percent from the field, including 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Off the floor, Jager closed his high school career with First-Team Academic All-State honors.

At IU, the 6-foot guard said he wants to digest workout structures and film breakdowns as a member of the scout team, among other roles, while vowing to uphold a standard for work ethic inside and outside of practice.

“Nobody is going to work harder than me,” Jager said. “I’m going to come in there every single day knowing that I have a job to do and that’s to make the guys who are going to play better. If that’s me being the scout guy, or doing the scouting correct every single time, if it’s me being a cheerleader, if that’s just me going as hard as I can to push the other guys to motivate them to be better, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

Jager earned All-North Coast Athletic Conference Honorable Mention honors as a freshman at Wabash last season, averaging 15.0 points, 5.5 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. He also shot 35 percent from 3-point range, while going 74 percent from the free throw line.

Although he could find playing time scarce in what is expected to be a deep and talented IU backcourt, Jager adds further shooting touch to the roster.

“I’m shooting for playing time,” he said. “I’m not just going to let it be that I’m a walk-on and I’m never going to play. I’m working to try and see the court in my career. I also realize that it’s a possibility that it may never happen in my life again. So I’m just going in with the attitude that I’m going to be the hardest worker there and just run with it.”

Jager is the second walk-on IU will add for next season. Zach McRoberts, a former Carmel forward and 2014 Indiana All-Star, joined the program earlier this summer.

Jager expects to be enrolled at IU in time for the start of the fall semester on Aug. 22, at which point he’ll be permitted to begin working out with the team.

In the meantime, Jager can envision what awaits.

“It’s just a dream come true,” he said.