Jerome Hunter has never missed a full season of basketball. He spent his freshman season watching from the bench, unable to contribute when his team needed it.
And for him, that hurt.
Hunter missed the 2018-19 season with a lower leg injury. He worked to get back while being out of the spotlight. Videos surfaced of Hunter putting shots up in Assembly Hall after games and in high school gyms over the summer. He worked over the summer at home in Ohio with his trainer, Andreas James, among others.
“Before I got hurt, I was doing really good,” Hunter said. “I thought I could help the team. I was really fitting in with the team. Now I feel like I’m better and I feel like I know my role and I know what coach is going to expect from me this year. Last year as a freshman I didn’t know what to expect.”
Now, he's 100% back.
He’s cleared for all basketball activities. He’s once again building chemistry with his teammates, something many players stressed has improved since last year.
“I’m excited to be back with my teammates,” Hunter said. “Seeing them practice last year and seeing all the hard-fought games they went through. I was motivated to get back.”
While on the sidelines, Hunter worked on his game the only way he was able: watching his team play.
Hunter watched the IU film to learn his own team. But he spent his season being a student of the game, watching as much basketball as he could at multiple levels.
“I was watching college games,” Hunter said. "I’m trying to see how the game is played and what I’m missing when I’m out there. I watch NBA too. There are great guys in the NBA so if you watch them, I feel like you get better.”
On the court, James worked with Hunter to return him to a normal basketball routine. James began working with Hunter in middle school. Throughout the process James has seen Hunter keep his head down and remain focused on his goal, taking the floor for IU for the first time.
“Part of the summer was getting back into the swing of things, dribbling the ball shooting the ball,” James said. “That’s the skill set we’ve always worked on. Especially in the workouts, I thought he shot the ball better than he ever has.”
Hunter played five-on-five against high school and college players this summer in Ohio as well as individual workouts and weight room days with James.
Now Hunter has no restrictions. He is being monitored by the team medical staff, but barring a setback, he’ll be a part of IU head coach Archie Miller’s team this season.
Hunter knows his role and feels experienced even with the year he’s missed.
“They recruited me for my versatility and I feel like I’m versatile,” Hunter said.
Hunter is a 6-foot-7-inch forward who will likely see time at both the three and four positions this season. His high school scouting report noted his ability to handle the ball and shoot, skills stemming from his days playing guard before a growth spurt.
Now, that all comes together. The x-factor that’s hovered around Miller’s team is finally ready, and he’s excited to get started. So are his teammates, his coaches and his trainer.
“The kid has always been able to put the ball in the hole,” James said. “And I just don’t see that not translating.”