Energized at Xavier, Pickerington North's Jerome Hunter excited for Indiana showdown

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Xavier Musketeers forward Jerome Hunter (21) shoots from three point range in the first half of the NCAA basketball game between the Xavier Musketeers and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

In his first season at Xavier, Jerome Hunter got a shot at his hometown school.

Now for a follow-up, he’ll get one against his former college. After three seasons at Indiana, Hunter and his fellow Musketeers will host the Hoosiers on Nov. 18 as part of the Gavitt Tip-Off Games. The game will be one year to the date that Hunter played 21 minutes in a 71-65 home win against Ohio State, a school that recruited him heavily, but this year’s rematch against his former team brings an extra element of intrigue.

For three years, Hunter was a part of coach Archie Miller’s program at Indiana before the forward opted to transfer after Miller was fired and replaced by Mike Woodson. This year, he will be playing his first season for newly hired coach Sean Miller – former Arizona coach and Archie’s brother.

Ohio State basketball recruiting:Top-5 recruit Xavier Booker puts Buckeyes in top 10, Devin Royal cuts list

'Vet Week':Generations of Ohio State players return

It’s a situation with a high potential for awkward, but Hunter said he’s quickly felt comfortable with the “new” Miller.

Asked if it’s been a challenge to start over with a new coach, Hunter said, “No, not really since I had his little brother. I feel like they do pretty much similar things.”

During the summer, Hunter has been a frequent participant in the Kingdom Summer League at Ohio Dominican University. While playing there, Hunter said he’s working on “making a lot of shots, winning a lot of games” and getting himself best positioned to make an impact in his fifth season of college basketball.

A four-star prospect in the 2018 class, Hunter was ranked No. 59 nationally in the 247Sports.com composite database and No. 2 in Ohio when he signed to play for the Hoosiers. It would be a while before his career would get underway as Hunter was diagnosed with a rare, potentially life-threatening blood clot behind his right knee that resulted in surgery and a medical redshirt for the 2018-19 season.

He returned to the court in 2019-20 and averaged 3.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in 30 games and upped that production to 6.3 and 3.0, respectively, in his third year at Indiana before transferring to Xavier.

With the Musketeers, Hunter averaged 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 15.3 minutes in 35 games played. Xavier went 23-13 and defeated Texas A&M in the NIT title game but coach Travis Steele was fired the following day. Four days later, Miller’s hiring was made official.

“I was excited to see that, because he has a good background,” Hunter said. “He wins a lot. Got a lot of people to the league, so him being our new coach, I was excited to see what he was going to bring to the program.”

Hunter said the initial weeks after Miller’s addition showed him a few things about his new coach.

“Everybody’s getting better,” Hunter said. “All my team is loving the new coach and he’s really explaining things in-depth as to what he wants to get accomplished so everybody’s getting on board. Once everybody’s on board, I feel like we can have a big season this year.”

That will include a rematch with the Hoosiers, and it’s a game Hunter said he immediately took note of once it was announced.

“I want to play them,” he said. “It’ll be good to play them. I’m pretty excited. I really can’t wait.”

Under first-year coach Woodson, the Hoosiers went 21-14 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2015-16 season.

“I still had a lot of friends on there,” Hunter said. “It was good to see them winning, but at the end of the day I’m on a different team so there’s always going to be a little bit of competition in there.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

Get more Ohio State basketball news by listening to our podcasts