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Indiana Basketball Newcomer Focus: Freshman guard Jakai Newton



Jakai Newton - Indiana Official Visit - October 8th, 2022 - Instagram - Photo Credit: Indiana Men's Basketball

Indiana basketball came into this offseason with many, many spots to fill with players like Trayce Jackson-Davis, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Race Thompson, and others departing from the program. With only two signees in the 2023 class, it was well-known that Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers were going to have to hit the transfer portal aggressively, especially when it came to rounding out the frontcourt.

Heading into the summer portion of the offseason and only one scholarship remaining, the Hoosiers did an outstanding job of filling the spots on the floor they needed with a total of three incoming freshman and three players out of the transfer portal all coming in.

The Indiana Hoosiers brought in many new faces into the men’s basketball program for the upcoming 2023-24 season. Today, we take a look at freshman guard Jakai Newton and discuss what he brings to Indiana, what his role will be, and more.

Other Players in this series: Mackenzie Mgbako, Kel’el WareGabe Cupps, Payton Sparks

Where He Comes From

Newton, a Covington, Georgia native, played his high school ball at Newton High School along with playing for Atlanta Express as part of the Under Armor UAA circuit.

At the start of last summer, Newton suffered a knee injury that would cause him to miss the majority of the 2022 AAU season and most of his senior year. He returned to the floor for the first time his senior season on February 3rd of this year, where he picked up where he left off dropping 12 points and contributing to Newton’s (high school) win.

In most of the national rankings, Newton was rated as a four-star prospect having been ranked No. 70 in the 2023 Rivals150 and No. 119 in the 247Sports rankings.

During his time playing at the high school level, Newton was a highly sought after recruit with offers coming from Indiana, Auburn, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Xavier, and many others.

On October 2021, Newton committed to Indiana and became the first player to make the up the 2023 Indiana basketball recruiting class. He would officially sign his national letter of intent to join the Hoosiers on November 9th, 2022.

Indiana associate head coach Yasir Rosemond was the lead recruiter of Newton due to his ties to the Georgia area. Both Rosemond and Newton have a strong relationship to one another dating back all the way to Newton’s sophomore year.

What He Brings

Newton is about as true of a two-way player as you can get at this level. At 6-foot-4, he is a combo guard that has elite athletic ability, defends, and is always locked in on both ends of the floor.

With Newton’s size and athleticism, he is a player that can play many different spots and often plays a lot bigger than what he is at times. For a guard, he is also a very strong rebounder on both ends.

Offensively, you can make the case that Newton is at his best at attacking the basket where he can use his speed, size, and athleticism to score in the lane. While he does have a capable and improved jumper, if Newton has the opportunity attack the basket, he will.

On the defensive end, there is a lot of pride and toughness that Newton brings. He can guard spots 1-3 consistently and as his Indiana career progresses, he will likely be guarding the opposing team’s best player more often than not.

Indiana is also getting a true workhorse of a player. Newton is always about improving his overall and getting in the gym to put in work. He has unlimited amount of confidence in his game and a motor that is nonstop. He has that prime ‘Russel Westbrook’ type of style on the floor.

What His Role Will Be

With as heavy as Indiana is with the guards/wings on their roster next season, Newton will more than likely play that reserve-type role next season. You could really see his role being similar to what sophomore guard CJ Gunn’s role was last year.

Newton’s full health is also something to monitor as well. While he did come back to play in the last part of his senior season, he is still working on fully recovering from his knee injury he sustained last year. If Newton is fully healthy, he will provide valuable spot minutes for Mike Woodson.

In his first year at Indiana, Newton will really benefit from learning and playing behind guys like Xavier Johnson and especially Trey Galloway, who has become more of a combo guard the last two seasons for Mike Woodson. By all accounts, Newton is a sponge of a basketball player and is always looking to help improve his game and learning from guards that have experience playing at this level will only help Newton in the long term.

No matter how many minutes Newton gets in his freshman season however, one thing is for sure, he is always going to be ready when his name is called.

Notable Quote

“Jakai is an outstanding two-way player who takes pride in his ability to be a lockdown defender,” Mike Woodson said on the addition of Jakai Newton. “He has tremendous athleticism and is aggressive at getting to the rim. He is well-coached and comes from a very well thought of high school program. He continues to improve and better himself with an outstanding work ethic. He has quick feet, a 6-10 wingspan, and a tremendous ability to elevate which will help him on both ends of the floor. He is a skilled player with a great build that should translate well to the Big Ten.”

SEE ALSO: Indiana Basketball: Where 2023 signees finished in national rankings

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Kyler Staley is a Basketball Recruiting Analyst for Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Kyler has been in the basketball recruiting industry since 2019 and is a credentialed media member. He has covered Indiana since 2021 while continuing to also work for Prep Hoops Indiana. He has previously worked for Rivals.