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Freshman Focus: Jalen Hood-Schifino – Inside the Hall

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Thirteen books. That’s how much weight Jalen Hood-Schifino lost during a spell last summer due to COVID-19, according to his mother Angel Schifino. Jalen was emotionally and physically depressed, Angel Schifino said. His time playing the Nike EYBL Peach Jam 2021 was cut short and he also missed another basketball camp. What is telling, however, is what Jalen wanted to do as soon as he felt better.

“As soon as he got better, I mean he wasn’t even excited to be ready to eat again, he wanted to be back in the gym,” Angel Schifino told Inside the Hall in August 2021. “…He wanted to go get tested, wanted that test to show he was negative and he was already setting up appointments with his trainer.

Among the ways to describe Jalen’s work ethic, Angel Schifino alluded to one of their favorite movies – The Sandlot. Near the beginning of the film, one of the main characters, Scotty Smalls, along with his parents, are new in the neighborhood. During one scene, Smalls is told by his mother going out in the fresh air and making friends, among other things. Angel Schifino compared this scene to sometimes having to encourage Jalen to do activities outside of basketball.

“He wants to do like three workouts — in one day,” Angel Schifino told Inside the Hall in August 2021. “I’m like, ‘man, you gotta rest.'”

Jalen is now gearing up for his first season at IU. Jalen – rated a five-star prospect and ranked 22nd nationally in the class of 2022, according to the 247Sport Composite – already has an impressive basketball resume. He won two GEICO High School Basketball Nationals titles (2021 and 2022) at Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) and competed in the 2022 Jordan Brand Classic. This spring, Jalen spent time training in California with professionals, including Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers. Jalen has the potential to be a key contributor for IU in the upcoming season.

“The kid works and works and works,” Montverde Academy associate head coach Rae Miller said of Jalen. “…His work ethic is without a doubt one of the best we’ve had.”

Jalen originally committed to the University of Pittsburgh in December 2019. But in July 2020, it disengaged from Pittsburgh and reopened recruiting. The following season in high school, he began playing at Montverde Academy, where he spent his final two seasons in high school. (He had previously played at Northside Christian Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina and then at Combine Academy in Lincolnton, North Carolina). In August 2021, at the start of his senior year at Montverde, Jalen committed to IU.

During Jalen’s senior season, just before the 2022 GEICO High School Basketball National Championships, he injured his finger on his shooting (right) hand. But he played in pain during the tournament. He even injured him again during the championship game, but kept playing and helped Montverde win another GEICO High School Basketball Nationals title. After the league game, he went to the hospital.

“He just wouldn’t allow (his injury) to deter him from playing and being effective,” Miller said. “It probably hurt him the most when shooting the ball in that scenario, but he improvised and found other ways to create chances for himself and his teammates, which was really nice to see.”

It is also important to understand who Jalen is as a person. Angel Schifino said Jalen was “a very mature child”, “very neat” and “an old soul”, among other descriptions. Once they were at a red light and there was a woman who wasn’t wearing shoes. Her legs and feet were swollen. So Jalen walked into the trunk and gave the woman a pair of his new Kobes. The woman cried.

“I just think your character is going far and it’s going to take you far in life,” Angel Schifino told Inside the Hall in August 2021. “Because the ball will stop… As a mom, you know, you want your kids to be happy and you just want them – as citizens – to just navigate through life being a good person. I just think it goes far.

At IU, playing time opened up in the backcourt for the 2022-23 season after guards Parker Stewart, Rob Phinisee and Khristian Lander all moved to other programs. Jalen will likely be competing with Xavier Johnson, Tamar Bates, Trey Galloway, Anthony Leal, CJ Gunn and Miller Kopp for playing time. (Maybe Jordan Geronimo and Kaleb Banks too, depending on the situation.) Jalen’s injured finger is now completely healed.

There are other aspects that make Jalen’s first season at IU even more intriguing. One is his physique. Jalen is listed on IU’s roster at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. For someone his age, he is an extremely physically developed frame. Plus, he’s a two-way player with the ability to create for himself – and others – on the attacking side. Jalen could potentially play as the primary ball handler for the Hoosiers. Jalen could also potentially play off the ball. There is a chance that he could play various roles at different times in a game/season. Among the various roster combinations, Jalen could potentially play alongside Xavier Johnson.

When asked what first struck Miller when he first started working with Jalen, Miller’s answer seemed fitting.

“His tenacity,” Miller said. “His tenacity. His willingness to work. His incredible work ethic. He really likes, you know, strength and conditioning. He liked having to grow up. He enjoyed the process that was required of him to become the player he became. And, you know, he came in (Montverde Academy), he wasn’t a guy who was interested in himself, he was interested in the team. And that was really, really important.

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