Hunter full go for Hoosiers

Redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter was back in his No. 21 Indiana jersey Tuesday, standing between newcomers Trayce Jackson-Davis and Nathan Childress for the Hoosiers’ team photo.

He was just like any other player in that image, a serious expression on his face, a singular focus on the season to come. Just being a part of that team, fully, in every way, was a big step forward for the 6-foot-7 forward from Pickerington, Ohio.

Last season, a lower-body condition relegated Hunter to the sideline. He couldn’t play. He could watch basketball on a screen, from the college ranks to the NBA, trying to mentally absorb as much as possible. But nothing replaces having a basketball in hand.

As IU made clear with a printed-out release Tuesday, Hunter is cleared to participate in all basketball activities at this stage. It was a long road to get here, including a surgery in November that was one of multiple medical procedures to treat his condition.

But there he was, at IU’s media day, answering questions in the press room at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“I ain’t never had to sit out a year before of basketball. Last year really hurt,” Hunter said. “But as you keep getting through it, you start thinking about other things, how you can get better off the court. That’s all I focused on — just how next year I can be the best player I can be.”

Hunter, a four-star recruit, is one player the Hoosiers hope can add a scoring boost this season. IU is looking to replace its two double-digit scorers from 2018-19, Romeo Langford (16.5 ppg) and Juwan Morgan (15.5).

If Hunter didn’t have last year’s misfortunes, it’s possible he could have proven his prowess sooner.

“Last year, before I got hurt, I was doing really good,” Hunter said. “I felt like the team, I was really fitting in with the team. Now, I feel like I’m better and I feel like I know my role.”

While it was hard to lose a year of playing, Hunter hopes he was still able to progress.

He’s a year older. He’s had a year to get acclimated to the university and Archie Miller’s coaching staff. And he’s spent a lot of time watching basketball, including the college game.

“I mean, I gotta get used to it,” Hunter said. “I’m trying to see how the game is played and what I’m missing when I’m not there. And then I watched NBA, too. I mean, there are great guys in the NBA, so you watch them, I feel like you can get better.”

“Versatile” is a word Hunter used to describe his game. It’s the reason, he thinks, the Hoosiers brought him to Bloomington.

Now the Hoosiers are excited to see what Hunter can add to the mix.

“Jerome’s a key guy for our team,” senior forward De’Ron Davis said. “It’s always hard for someone to come into college and not be able to play their first year. We were all there for him, and now we are glad he’s back.

“He helps us get better, we help him get better.”

When Miller discussed Hunter’s progress during an August speech in Evansville, he recalled a player who seemed a little anxious as the Hoosiers took the floor for their first fall workout. But Hunter was smiling, Miller said, showing an “eagerness” to be practicing and improving with his teammates.

In every way, Hunter is back with his team, just another piece in the Hoosiers’ plan. Tuesday, he posed for that team picture, holding onto few worries about the condition that stole his true freshman campaign. 

“Being out a year, being back, I’m excited to be back with my teammates,” Hunter said. “Seeing them practice last year, seeing all the hard-fought games they went through last year, I was motivated to get back.”

12 comments

  1. This is outstanding news, hopefully he can pick up where he left off quickly. If so, and all the whispers were true, I think we will all shed more than a few tears over what could have been last season. Especially if everyone else had been able to stay healthy too.

  2. Dare I say this is your next Penix?

    Time will tell. Glad Jerome is cleared….and I do like our basketball team this year. Brunk of Burnin’ Love possibly being the real bonus. Still think we need a lights out perimeter shooter. Phinisee will also be key. Don’t know if he can truly evolve into a premier point guard/floor general.

    Inside game much improved. Still questions in backcourt.

    1. H4H,
      Truth of the matter is none of us truly know what to expect. Last year’s team was so decimated by injuries that we really don’t know what they were or could have been. I’ve never seen a team anywhere that injury plagued. The only clues we may get are how well the injured on last year’s team this year’s team play, as well as Romeo and Juwan at the next level. For Jerome’s sake, I am very glad to see him cleared to play once again.

      Whatever it was that he was dealing with had to have been difficult. All I know from the whispers before he went down was that he was a capable shooter. If memory is correct, the reason Archie gave when he won the gold jersey was that he made shots. Don’t know where those shots came from but he hit them.

      Thought it was interesting watching the media day yesterday. Had Jerome, Deron, and Rob at the same time. I thought, it sure would be nice for all three of them to have a completely healthy year because we’ve saw none of them have a complete year without health worries. When you add Race to the list, the amount of potentially high caliber talent out of action or severely limited last year boggles the mind.

      1. I really can’t call it “high caliber talent” lost to injury last season until I see a lot of minutes….Phinisee’s injury probably hurt us the most….but I’m still a bit on the fence regarding his ability to become a truly dynamite floor general.
        I still believe the biggest plus is Brunk…Having some real beef inside is going to enable the havoc and versatility from the other spots on the floor.
        Sounds like he’s getting himself into incredible shape and transforming his body. He may not even look like the version we saw at Butler…which still had some flashes of real potential inside. Very intrigued by Brunk….Very interested to see how quickly Jackson-Davis gets rolling. Hoping Justin Smith realizes his potential as well. Those three could be a pretty big load ….Hunter, Thompson and DeRon are all in the mix as well.

        For me, the big question marks are in the backcourt. We need perimeter bucket makers…And we need discipline with the ball and smart decision making (that means you, Green).

        1. H4H,
          I agree we can’t call it high caliber talent, yet. Mainly because we have no way to know due to the injuries. If everyone stays healthy then we will be in a much better position to understand how much talent was actually sidelined last year. Hopefully they all are able to play up to their potential.

          1. I’ve lost track…Are Jerome Hunter and Race Thompson both Archie recruits…or were they recruited by ‘Galileo?’ Pretty sure DeRon was mainly recruited by Steve McClain…

            Sorry to not buy in too much…but I want strong heady basketball players and not just “upside” athletes who finally start evolving and understanding the team game once they’re ready to chase the NBA dream.

            Until Archie has almost 100% his own choices on the floor, I’m merely hoping for the best. I’m more positive because I think a kid coming from Butler bring a needed reinforcement of Archie’s new culture. He will be a stabilizing presence on the floor…..and provide some shoulders and grit inside too!

          2. Maybe I’m wrong…but I thought I read Phinisee was pretty much committed to IU before Archie came on to the scene…I’ll have to research.

            Sorry to offer so much “derision” but I don’t really get all giddy about guys who are laughing it up on the bench while we’re losing an NIT game at home.
            Hoping Archie continues to change/remove the NBA “upside” farm climate. aloof attitudes and the culture of privilege that some think 5 stars on a waistband entails….along with cutting down nets after losses(pretty sure somebody had some sneers for that practice).

            Applaud any kid working hard and coming back from injury. Hoping he stays healthy…and contributes.

          3. Phinisee was pursued by former Indiana coach Tom Crean, who was the first to offer him a scholarship, and the Boilermakers weren’t far behind (courtesy: News-Sentinel).

  3. Welcome back Jerome! Last year must have been a real ordeal for you. This year is the beginning of your career in basketball. Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars! You have what it takes to be great! Every Hoosier fan is pulling for your success!

  4. Nice to see that a kid has worked his butt off to come back from something pretty nasty. Hunter looks like he will be a key part of getting the Hoosiers back into the dance this year.

    Nice to also see that this news is met with sneering derision. Don’t ever change, Scoop, I mean, HSR. 😀

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