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Posted On: 10/21/17 11:09 AM
Jerome Hunter is one of the most obvious candidates for Ohio’s Mr. Basketball. Pickerington North went 21-6 last year. They ended the season unranked in the AP State Poll. But, Hunter got extremely hot in the postseason, taking Pick North all the way to the Columbus Regional Final, where they were eliminated by Pickerington Central. Hunter averaged 19.8 points per game, according to 270 Hoops. He received Honorable Mention All State honors.
Since that time, Pickerington North added a pair of D-I/D-II prospects in Ross Ryan and Corey Baker, Hunter committed to Archie Miller’s staff at Indiana and, across the state, Pick North has become a trendy pick to win the Division I State Championship.
If things go as expected, Hunter will check all of the boxes that Mr. Basketball winners are required to.
First of all, Ohio’s Mr. Basketball must have elite talent. Since 2001, only LeBron James (#1 NBA Draft pick) and Justin Fritts (Wheeling Jesuit) didn’t play Division I basketball.
Next, we considered projected team success. Again since 2001, 10 of the 17 Mr. Basketball winners led their high school team to the State Final Four that season.
Then, the most important piece of the formula considered is production. We’re considering the player’s projected role on their team to predict if they have the opportunity to fill up the scorer’s book. It’s especially imperative that you put up points, as the only Mr. Basketball to average under 20 points since 2001 was Jared Sullinger at 19.9 points per game in 2009. But, Sullinger made up for that tenth of a point by averaging 14.8 rebounds, being the #2 player in the country, and winning the Division I State Championship.
Here’s how Hunter scored in each category…
Hunter is a top 50 player in America. He can play both forward spots. Physical and skilled. Hunter’s 3-point jump shot is no longer a question mark, as he’s clearly taken an interest in shoring up that part of his game. Hunter can play above the rim. He also dominates players on his 12-foot post up with his back to the basket.
Hunter is the top prospect in the Hoosiers’ 2018 recruiting class.
Here’s their expected all-senior starting lineup: 5’11” Corey Baker (#68 in Ohio), 6’4” Dondre Palmer (#55, Findlay comit), 6’7” Jerome Hunter (#2, Indiana commit), 6’9” Elijah McNamara (#24), and 6’8” Ross Ryan (#37). After being one of the final eight teams in Division I last season, it’s safe to say this group is the favorite to come out of Columbus this season. It could take a month or so to gel together, but Hunter and company will likely be towards the very top of the AP State Poll all season.
Here’s the argument for Hunter putting up ridiculous numbers as a senior: Hunter is going to be guarded by the other team’s third tallest player or best wing, often. Meaning, his physicality 15 feet and in will be too much of a problem and he’ll shoot a ridiculously high percentage. Hunter will also be better from 3-point range. Then, the obvious of him being a high-major prospect and potentially a future pro.
The inverse of that argument is that there will be other players for Hunter to keep involved. On any given night, Pick North could game plan to exploit a different matchup, especially in the post with Ryan or McNamara, making Hunter the secondary option on certain nights. His rebounding numbers, and therefore easy second chance opportunities, could diminish with those two in the paint. Also, Baker should act as the primary ball-handler, and he’s capable of putting his head down for a bucket inside at any time. So, while the team is stronger, they may not need Hunter quite as much this year.
His chances are clearly strong. But, his chances to win a State Championship are a bit higher. In order to accomplish the team goals, putting up typical award-winning statistics could be unnecessary, and maybe even counterproductive.
But, it’s hard to say what this team how exactly this team will operate. Hunter was the clear focal point a season ago. That could be the plan once again, so we’ll be interested to see how it shakes out this season.