Nine Indiana basketball players that saw the floor during the season will be back for the 2020-21 campaign as of this writing.
While formal practices have concluded, the work never stops for high major college basketball players. Growth and development happens in the offseason, in individual workouts and permitted organized team activities.
At the end of each season the coaches sit down and have one-on-one meetings with the players. If you could talk to each of the nine returning players about their 2019-20 season and what they need to improve going forward, what would you say?
We play Archie Miller for a day and give it a shot with the “Annual Review” series.
Quick 2019-20 Recap:
After missing his freshman season due to an undisclosed lower leg condition that required surgery, Hunter made his long awaited debut in November.
The Pickerington, Ohio product appeared in 30 games, averaging 14.4 minutes per contest. Over his last 12 games Hunter would play 17.9 minutes per game as he regained his legs after being shut down for nearly a year.
For the season Hunter averaged 3.8 points and 2.1 rebounds, but most of his averages trended up as the season progressed as well. Hunter shot 35 percent overall including 30.2 percent from three point range for his redshirt freshman season. He also knocked down 75 percent of his attempts at the free throw line.
Hunter also showed an ability to make big shots, including a game-clinching free throw against Michigan State and a significant momentum changing three-pointer against Penn State to name two.
The Daily Hoosier Report Card
Jerome Hunter (B-) While the numbers don’t look great, the real story with Hunter is the progress. After not playing any organized basketball for a year, Hunter got off to a very slow start. But as evidenced by his 42.8 percent three-point shooting over the last 14 games, the redshirt freshman got his legs back and gained confidence as the season progressed. Hunter is one of the most critical players on the roster when it comes to Indiana having a versatile lineup, and his development of more offense off the dribble will only enhance his value.
“He’s starting to look the part. His legs look stronger. I think, if you just watch him right now, he has a much better bounce about him on the floor than he’s had. It’s taken him a while to get to this point, but like I said before, a guy takes a year off from injury, it’s difficult, especially a true freshman that never played.
Now he’s playing, and he’s playing more and more, which is a big thing for our team. He’s added value in a lot of ways. He’s doing a better job defensively. He ends up getting double figures here tonight but made three big shots, but that’s what he can do. He can add some offensive firepower.”
— Archie Miller after a Jan. 26 game against Maryland
Primary Developmental Needs:
1. Continue the trend
As the report card excerpt indicates, Hunter made substantial strides shooting the ball from long range over the course of the season, making 14.2 percent from distance the first 18 games, and 42.8 percent the last 14.
Hunter was more productive in other ways as the season progressed, with 5 of his 11 steals coming in the last 6 games, and 3 of his 7 blocks coming in the last 7 games. Of course more minutes plays a role, but Hunter also had his 4 best rebounding totals in the last 12 games.
Everything points to Hunter rounding into form, and that was understandable after being away from the game for so long. Now the challenge will be to keep moving forward, something that will not come easy with players struggling to find gym access and workout facilities.
Hunter might still be Indiana’s only true wing on the roster next season, and if he puts it all together, his role and his production seem destined for a major jump.
2. Look to score off the bounce
Hunter started his high school career as a back to the basket big man, and he seems to have evolved all the way out to a three-point shooting specialist.
Somewhere in between is the best version of Hunter’s game. Too often the 6-foot-7 forward’s attack was limited to hunting open shots from behind the arc. The next level for Hunter is to improve his handle, and use shot fakes to score and pose other threats off the bounce.
Hunter only had nine assists on the season, and the lowest assist rate on the team — a further indication of an offensive repertoire that was limited. He also had a turnover rate (21.9 percent) that was the second highest on the team. Hunter will need to get comfortable passing and scoring in traffic on the move, drawing fouls, and when the opportunities exist, take mismatches down on the block and score the way he did in high school.
3. Become reliable and impactful defender
Hunter has tremendous length, which can be a meaningful asset in the pack-line defense.
Much like his offensive game early in the season, Hunter seemed to be thinking on defense more than playing, and there were times when he missed help side assignments.
It is difficult to crack Miller’s rotation if you are not fundamentally sound on defense, and Hunter’s progress on the principles improved as the season wore on too.
There were flashes of brilliance, like a momentum changing block on Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu in Minneapolis. That was a perfect illustration of how Hunter’s length can be a weapon.
Hunter has the raw tools to become one of the league’s better defenders. He’s been in Miller’s system for two fulls years and should have the pack-line concepts down. Now it is time to become a disruptive force and lock down his place in the rotation.
What Success Looks Like in 2020-21
The ceiling is high for Hunter. There is a clear opportunity for a starting role and 25 minutes a game, if not more.
If Hunter can carry his favorable trends over to his redshirt sophomore campaign, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him become a player that averages 8 to 10 points per game while shooting better than 45 percent overall and 35 percent or more from three.
Those metrics along with better rebounding, passing and defense will put Hunter on a path towards becoming an All-Big Ten caliber player as an upperclassman.
MORE ANNUAL REVIEWS:
- Justin Smith
- Al Durham
- Joey Brunk
- Rob Phinisee
- Race Thompson
- Damezi Anderson
- Jerome Hunter
- Armaan Franklin
- Trayce Jackson-Davis
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