Pickerington's Jerome Hunter looking for fresh start at Xavier after Indiana tenure

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Jerome Hunter, here being introduced during Hoosier Hysteria on Oct. 5, 2019, averaged 6.3 points and 2.4 rebounds while playing 19.6 minutes per game last season.

When it came time to be recruited again, Jerome Hunter had a pretty good idea what he was looking for.

After three years at Indiana, the Pickerington North product received a message from Xavier coach Travis Steele two days after putting his name into the transfer portal this spring. The two were already familiar with each other since Steele had recruited Hunter to Xavier while he was an assistant coach, and it didn’t take long for the rekindling to lead to a commitment.

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Now with his eye on the future and a challenging time at Indiana that included a potentially life-threatening medical situation that robbed him of a year, Hunter is spending his Sundays playing in the Kingdom Summer League at Ohio Dominican University and preparing to make the most of a fresh start.

“I just wanna win,” he said. “When it comes down to it, I’m gonna do anything for my team to win. If it’s scoring 20 points or getting the game-winning block or something, I just want to win the game.”

Doing so has proven to be a challenge for Hunter since he graduated from high school in 2018. A four-star recruit according to the 247Sports.com composite database ranked No. 59 nationally, he chose the Hoosiers from a list of finalists that included Ohio State, Michigan, Pitt and Xavier and joined a recruiting class headlined by five-star guard Romeo Langford.

The two never played together, though, as Hunter underwent surgery on his right leg in November 2018 and missed Langford’s lone season in college. Now nearly three years removed from the procedure, Hunter said he had a rare blood clot behind his right knee that needed to be surgically removed, resulting in a lengthy recovery.

“I could walk right after my surgery,” he said. “I couldn’t have contact because I was on blood thinners. I had to sit out the whole year just so I could keep taking my medicine for the whole year. That was really the toughest part, being able to play but I couldn’t play because I couldn’t get hit or bruised or anything.”

The Hoosiers went 19-16 and missed the NCAA Tournament that year with Hunter unavailable. He debuted as a redshirt freshman in 2019-20, averaging 3.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 14.4 minutes of playing time in 30 games before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hunter’s minutes and production improved last year, when he averaged 6.3 points and 2.4 rebounds while playing 19.6 minutes per game in 25 appearances. He started four games for the Hoosiers but missed two Big Ten games due to what coach Archie Miller said was “a coach’s decision.” Indiana closed the year with a six-game losing streak and failed to reach the NCAA Tournament with a 12-15 record. Miller was fired, the Hoosiers hired Mike Woodson and Hunter opted to transfer. Hunter said he has not spoken to Miller since the two parted ways.

Indiana went 51-43 during Hunter’s three years.

“Losing is always hard,” he said of his time there. “We just had to find our way out of it. We just never could.”

While it wasn’t the primary reason Hunter said he opted to transfer, it was a contributing one.

“I felt like Indiana was kind of, I didn’t have my free range of game at Indiana, but being at Xavier with coach Steele, he’s letting me play,” he said. “Being with him, he’s going to let me and everybody see how I can play, really. I would say it was the style of play at Indiana, just my minutes, me fitting in over there. I didn’t really fit in, so I’m hoping Xavier’s gonna be the right fit for me.”

Asked what he’ll take from his time at Indiana with him to Xavier, Hunter said, “My toughness. My attention to detail. My old coach, Archie, he always made us pay attention to detail. Bringing that to my new school is always good for that and helping the other young players with it.”

Spectators at the Kingdom Summer League at Ohio Dominican University have gotten glimpses of that this summer. Playing for Team V alongside Ohio State center Zed Key, Hunter scored 16 points in Sunday’s win that moved his team to 5-1 and first place in the league.

This season, the hope is to have the same impact at Xavier.

“An injury, everybody gets injured,” Hunter said. “It’s about if you can go out and come back better than you were before the injury. That’s what I always had in my head, that I want to be better than before it."

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy