One day Indiana fans will love to hate Jalen Hood-Schifino’s fellow point guards at Montverde Academy.
But right now they are helping prepare him to be ready to contribute immediately when he suits up for the Hoosiers in about 10 months.
Down the road Montverde point guards Skyy Clark and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn will be leading the way at Kentucky and Purdue, respectively. Today they provide Hood-Schifino exactly what he and so many of the nation’s top players look for when they attend national powerhouse prep schools — every day high-end competition.
Although he is a top-20 five-star class of 2022 talent, Hood-Schifino didn’t play a major role for Montverde as a junior for that same reason — so much talent. But now in his final year of high school, the progression into a high-major ready guard has become clear.
“I feel like everything in my game I’ve gotten better at,” Hood-Schifino told The Daily Hoosier at an NIBC event this weekend in LaPorte, Ind. “Just everyday at practices, going against top guys in the country, experiencing the best coaching, it has definitely challenged me and pushed me. Last year was a tough year, I had a different role, and this year I accepted a way bigger role and I feel like I’ve adapted well, I feel like I’m doing a good job, and I’m excited about the rest of the year.”
Hood-Schifino and Clark both start for Montverde, so they share the primary ball-handling duties. That’s something Montverde head coach Kevin Boyle believes works well with the versatile Hood-Schifio.
“Is he a point guard? Yes. Is he a shooting guard? Yes. He’s really a guard,” Boyle said.
But Hood-Schifino has developed over the last year into a player who will thrive with the ball in his hands.
“His pace has gotten to where he’s starting to slow down, and using ball screens and making good reads,” Boyle said. “He’s being patient and letting things happen into the screen, keeping his man to the side or behind him and letting the guy roll looking for the lob or looking for the kick-out to the shooter, that’s something that he’s really progressed at.”
Hood-Schifino shares the court now with Clark, and Indiana will likely have other point guards on the roster when he arrives. Is he a one or a two? He has a preference, but the process at Montverde has taught him to be patient and allow his versatility to shine through.
“At the end of the day I’m just a basketball player, but when I go there (Indiana) I definitely do expect to have the ball in my hands. I think I’m best with the ball in my hands, and when I talk to the coaching staff they want me to have the ball. But I’m versatile and I’m able to do whatever the coaches want me to do,” Hood-Schifino said.
If there was a knock on Hood-Schifino as a prospect it was his ability to make shots from the perimeter consistently. He’s always been known as a physical guard who can get to the rim, and he’s also very effective with floaters and from the mid-range. But Boyle has seen consistent shooting out to the 3-point arc this year.
“He’s shooting the ball a lot better this year, and overall he’s become a good open shot-maker,” Boyle said.
On the other end of the floor, Hood-Schifino is a menace pressuring opposing point guards. Many national analysts believe he is one of the best on-ball defenders in the 2022 class.
“I just take it personally every night,” he said. “I don’t like anyone to ever say that they got the best of me, so I try to go in, lock in on my opponent and D up every chance I get.”
His coach sees the combination of size and athleticism that should serve Hood-Schifino well on the defensive end at IU.
“He’s thick and he’s good laterally, so he’s a very good on-ball defender,” Boyle said. “He’s got a body made for the Big Ten.”
Hood-Schifino is also verbal on the court, guiding teammates and directing the offense. That’s another point guard trait his coach has seen grow.
“That’s what we really tried to get out of him,” Boyle said. “He’s a smart player with a good knowledge, and that’s valuable, but it’s valuable times ten if you can help guys who are not as knowledgeable during the course of the game. I think he’s getting better at that.”
Montverde has joined seven other national prep schools in forming the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC). Thus far in NIBC games Hood-Schifino is averaging 9.7 points, 5.4 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.7 turnovers in 28.6 minutes per game.
While those numbers might not seem staggering for a high school player with Hood-Schifino’s accolades, he is sharing the floor with four other high-major players at all times. Watching Montverde is like watching a college team.
And Boyle is quick to remind you that statistics at Montverde need to be evaluated on a different scale.
“There’s almost not a guy we have who doesn’t score more in college than he does in high school,” Boyle said. “Ryan Nembhard averaged like six a game last year but he’s averaging like 13 at Creighton. Cade (Cunningham) averaged 12 a game for us. Scottie Barnes averaged 9.8 as a senior.”
It all bodes well for Indiana to have a player ready to step in and add value right away. For now, both sides are keeping a close eye on one another.
“I talk to them a lot, almost every day,” Hood-Schifino said of Indiana. “We’re going in a good direction. We got a big win against Ohio State.”
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