In accordance with Big Ten rules, Indiana will be posting an availability report before every game this year.
Expect to see freshman guard Jakai Newton’s name on it for a while.
The 6-foot-3 and 203-pound Georgia native had a knee procedure in August, was at IU’s media day in September on crutches, and was walking with a limp at Hoosier Hysteria a few weeks ago.
According to coach Mike Woodson, Newton is slowly but surely making progress and rejoining some team activities, but he’s got a long way to go, and notably, may not play at all this season.
“Early on he (Newton) was struggling because he was hurt and he just didn’t feel like he was a part of it,” Woodson said earlier this week. “But he’s kind of grown past that now because he’s starting to move around a little bit. He ran a little bit on the treadmill. He’s been able to come out and walk through and hasn’t done a whole lot of the walk-through stuff but the stretching and the warm-up stuff prior to us actually getting going on the court.
“I think he’s moving in the right direction. How quickly he comes back, only time will tell.”
As you watch Indiana struggle to guard the perimeter at times early in the season, the idea of having Newton in the rotation is tantalizing. It isn’t clear what Newton would be ready to contribute as a freshman, but the aggressive, athletic and physical guard with elite length projects as a player who could be an impact defender early in his career.
So as the months roll on, a decision will have to be made — play Newton this year if he’s ready, or have him redshirt?
College basketball doesn’t have a rule like college football where a player can see the floor and still redshirt. If Newton plays a minute this season, it counts as a full year of eligibility. And he would only be eligible for a medical hardship eligibility waiver if the injury was season ending.
Here in early November, Woodson doesn’t have enough information to make a decision. But a redshirt season for Newton is at least possible.
“We’ve got to make a decision on what we’re going to do with him — is he healthy enough to play when he comes back? If not, then you might have to think about redshirting and things of that nature,” Woodson said. “We haven’t even talked about that. But, I mean, that’s on the back burner if that may occur.”
Like his freshman counterpart Gabe Cupps, Woodson says he likes the tenacity Newton can bring to Indiana.
“I truly like his toughness and the things he can do on both ends of the floor, and we just haven’t been able to get him out there to give him an opportunity to showcase it,” Woodson said.
Newton suffered a knee injury that required surgery in the late spring of 2022. He didn’t play from May of 2022 until February of 2023, and Newton wasn’t a part of live 5-on-5 at IU before the August procedure. So there will be a rust element to work through as well before he’s ready.
Newton told The Daily Hoosier last November that there were multiple aspects to the injury he initially suffered, including microfracture surgery.
Ranked No. 84 on ESPN, No. 86 on 247Sports, and No. 64 on Rivals, Newton helped guide Newton H.S. (Newton, Ga.) to the 2022 AAAAAAA state semifinals. He averaged 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game as a junior.
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