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Player Preview: Can Jerome Hunter be useful?

To say Hunter struggled in his first season at Xavier would be charitable, but there’s still a lot he could bring to the table.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Xavier vs Butler
Jerome, probably not sending it in
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Rather than a full on preview for each player on the roster this year we will be attempting to focus on one question that will determine how the player might fit on the team. The questions aren’t designed to carry either a positive or negative connotation, just really suss out how the roster is built. We’ll start with the freshman and build on to the players everyone knows.

Last year I said “The tools are there, it just needs someone to put them together” about Jerome Hunter. Whatever that would have entailed didn’t happen. Hunter scored in double figures in three games, had a career low offensive efficiency of 84.8, and was demonstrably worse at pretty much everything on the offensive end.

Defensively Hunter rebounded an insignificant amount better and raised his steals percentage by less than a point. The raw talent was clearly there, but Hunter struggled massively in his first season at Xavier. He’s tall, fast, athletic, and capable of shooting the ball well, but he parlayed that all into a player that averaged 15 minutes per game and barely got on the floor in a deep NIT run.

This is Hunter’s final year of college eligibility. He’s gone from being a top 75 recruit to a guy who will be hoping to make it somewhere in Europe. How can he arrest that slide? With an excellent senior season. He’s going to be a part of the rotation more as a four than a three this year, and that will give him a chance to use his athleticism under the bucket rather than test his abilities beyond the arc.

Sean Miller was inclined to let him play a lot on Tuesday. Hunter played 13 minutes, scoring nine on perfect free throw shooting and 3-4 from the floor, and likely would have gotten more time had he not also committed a frankly impressive five fouls in that time span. Fouls were also something of a concern last season, so that development was both not unexpected and a indicative of the same aggressive mindset.

Jerome Hunter can be useful to this team if he can play minutes as a rotation four. He took no three pointers on Tuesday, something that likely warmed the hearts of most watching. He also snagged four rebounds and didn’t commit a turnover. If he can consistently play like that, there are minutes to be had in a smaller lineup or if Miller wants to go huge. There is also more competition this season, and a coach with the cachet to make the moves he wants. A Jerome Hunter with an offensive efficiency well below average won’t be spending significant time on the floor.