Jalen Hood-Schifino was one and done at Indiana, but year at IU was critical

CHICAGO -- When Indiana's season ended and Jalen Hood-Schifino had to decide whether or not to go pro after his freshman season with the Hoosiers, no one on the staff even tried to talk him out of it.

Even by that point, it seemed clear that the point guard from Pittsburgh would be safely taken in the first round, likely even in the top 20 picks. So no one on Indiana's coaching staff thought it would be right to tell Hood-Schifino he should pass up on the opportunity.

"When I talked the coaching staff, they knew it was time for me to go," Hood-Schifino said Wednesday at the NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena. "Just my game-wise, I was ready and it was the right decision. I think they knew it was time for me to go. You can't really pass up on the league, especially in the position I'm in, I don't think it would have been smart for me to go back to school. It was the right move for me and I felt like I kind of had to go."

Still, Hood-Schifino acknowledged that he owed a lot to Mike Woodson and his coaching staff. Though it seemed possible that Hood-Schifino could be a one-and-done after his time at Montverde Academy in Florida when he was part of two GEICO National Championship teams, he wasn't considered a lock to be a 2023 first-rounder when he arrived at Indiana. His growth came in part through his situation but also because he played for a coach with NBA experience.

Hood-Schifino's path to the NBA quickened dramatically when he became the Hoosiers' only true point guard. When the season began, he was splitting the position with veteran Xavier Johnson. The two point guards were clearly two of Indiana's top five players, so they had to be on the floor at the same time and Hood-Schifino frequently found himself playing off the ball. But when Johnson broke his foot in Indiana's loss to Kansas, Hood-Schifino had to take over the reins and grow up fast.

"I think whenever X went down it allowed me to have the ball in my hands more," Hood-Schifino said. "The coaching staff pretty much gave me the keys and had the ultimate confidence in me. I'm the type of player that, obviously, I put in the work, but put me in a situation where I have to perform and rise to the occasion, that's what I'm going to do. I perform under bright lights. When he went down it really challenged me to go out there and make the most of it and I think I exceeded that."

Woodson pushes his point guards, and he pushed Hood-Schifino. The point guard said his coach didn't tell him much he didn't already know, but he held him to a high standard.

"Being a point guard, he just instilled the qualities you need to have as far as being vocal and doing certain things," Hood-Schifino said. "I feel like for me, I was the kind of guy who already had those qualities. It wasn't too much he had to tell me I needed to do. He just wanted me to be myself and he allowed me to be myself which allowed me to be successful."

Hood-Schifino averaged 13.5 points per game, including 14.9 in conference play to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, showing out with a 24-point effort in a win over Ohio State and 35 points in a win over Purdue. He showed off an exceptional mid-range game, made 33.3 percent of his 3s and dished out 3.7 assists per game and was dynamite in screen-and-roll actions.

And now he waits to hear his name called, as he's clearly one of the top point guard options in the draft. Scoot Henderson will certainly be the first taken and there could be several combo guards before him including Anthony Black, Nick Smith, Amen Thompson and Cason Wallace. But he likely won't be on the board long.

"Obviously last night, seeing the lottery balls, I was definitely tuned into that and locked into that," Hood-Schifino said. I think the teams fell into a great place for me. I think this whole process, pre-draft, workouts and interviews are going to be critical for me, and I think it's going to be great for me and work in my favor."

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Mike Woodson helped Jalen Hood-Schifino blossom at IU.