Photo by Mike Schumann, The Daily Hoosier

IU basketball recruiting: Jalen Haralson is the next big in-state phenom, and he’s ready for it

In the first half of a game against Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, Fishers rising sophomore Jalen Haralson fell to the floor and clutched his leg after stumbling on a breakaway layup.

As he made his way over to the sidelines with help and tested what appeared to be a serious injury, one thing seemed certain — his day was over.  This was just summer basketball, after all.

But moments later Haralson checked back into the game, and after a few trips up and down the floor he seemed to regain his rhythm.  The 6-foot-6 point guard was carving-up defending state champion Cathedral off the bounce, using a combination of skill and size that no one could match.

Haralson would end up on the floor in pain a few more times.  Once he fell violently, directly on his back, and had to be helped up.  On the final play of the game, a double-overtime thriller won by Cathedral, he injured his leg again and had to be helped off once more.

It was borderline stressful to watch Haralson play with such a reckless disregard for his body.  Physically he looks the part of someone preparing for their senior year of high school, if not older, and his effort level playing in front of numerous college coaches would leave the casual observer to believe this was a kid making one last run at a scholarship.

But Haralson just turned 15 less than two months ago, and every one of those college coaches would take his commitment today.  Why?

First and foremost, Haralson is a competitor.

“He’s been like that since we got him.  He’s tough-nosed, he wants to win,” Fishers head coach Garrett Winegar told The Daily Hoosier.  “We try to instill that in our program but I can’t take any credit for him, he was that way when he got here.  He plays with a competitive edge, and when we ask him to defend the best player, he’s willing to accept those challenges from day one.

“Our first game last year against Ben Davis we put him on their leading scorer and he shut him down as a freshman, so he really accepts the challenge and is a good competitor.”

Haralson’s ultra-competitive approach produces results on the offensive end as well.  As a freshman he averaged 16 points per game, and on Saturday, through all the chaos, he posted 27 against Cathedral and nearly willed his young team to a win.

Placing Haralson in the point guard spot isn’t just about putting the ball in the hands of the best player on the court as often as possible.  He truly has primary ball handler skills.

“I think his best position is the one.  His best talent is his court-vision.  He has elite, professional court vision,” Winegar said.  “He passes the ball as good as anyone I’ve been around, and at his size he sees the floor and makes passes that no one else at the high school level can make.”

When he was younger, Haralson was often used as a center.  But working with his uncle Jovon McGraw, an assistant coach at Anderson University, the realization came before high school that Haralson likely wouldn’t be tall enough to play the post in college.

“I was tall for my age growing up, but he thought if I don’t grow much more, a 6-foot-6 big man is not going to get you to the next level,” Haralson told The Daily Hoosier.

So they worked on moving his game out to the perimeter, while Haralson’s time spent on the low block got him used to playing through contact.  Now he’s a big, athletic, skilled point guard who can go around you, over you, or through you if necessary.

“That’s just how I play, a physical guard who can create for my teammates and use my physicality to create, and when people help, it’s good that I have shooters so I can drop it off to them or my big man,” Haralson said.

It is hard to not think of Indiana freshman point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino when watching Haralson.  They are about the same height, physically strong, mentally tough, have elite vision, strong on the ball defenders, and both are high-level finishers in the paint.

Like Hood-Schifino, Haralson is already showing up in national top-25 rankings for his class.  And yet another similarity, if there’s one thing Haralson still has to prove on a consistent basis, it’s his ability to shoot the basketball.

But Haralson shot 33 percent from long range as a freshman, and his head coach believes his perimeter shot will become yet another weapon.

“He really shoots it well, he’s really putting time in on his jump shot,” Winegar said.  “But right now to be honest, he gets to the rim every time so he doesn’t have to shoot, but he has that ability too.  He’s putting a lot of time into that.  He had some small footwork and balance things that we’ve worked on.  But he has a really good release and good backspin, so now it’s just about getting reps and I think he’ll shoot it really well next season.”

Indiana was convinced Haralson was college high-major material before he ever played a high school game.  Head coach Mike Woodson offered him a scholarship in October.

With three years of high school remaining, recruiting isn’t something Haralson has to pay much attention to right now, but he is enjoying getting to meet college coaches.  He met with Woodson and the IU staff a few weeks ago at their team camp in Bloomington.

“Coach Woodson is a real cool dude,” Haralson said.  “We had a meeting with him and he was expressing how interested he was in me and he thinks he can take my game to the next level.”

The question is, just how far along will Haralson’s game be by the time he is ready to enter college?

He might already be the best high school player in the state, and if his performance on Saturday was any indication, Haralson will likely end up with just about any college or professional option he could imagine.

And with that will come a story we’ve seen play out so many times before — a wave of hype and hysteria over the latest high school phenom from Indiana.

But Haralson just might be uniquely equipped to handle what is coming his way.

“To have his maturity, both physically and mentally and how smart he is, it’s pretty rare to see in a kid his age,” Winegar said.

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