Jordan Hulls was in the midst of his ninth season playing professional basketball when an opportunity arose.
It was a chance to join Mike Woodson's staff as a recruiting coordinator for the Indiana men's basketball team. A chance to return to the program where he won a Big Ten championship. A chance to return to the town where he hit enough 3-pointers to win Indiana Mr. Basketball. A chance to be closer to family and friends, and a chance to come home.
But Hulls wasn't completely ready to give up his playing career. After all, he was still draining 3-pointers over 40 percent of the time and sinking free throws more than nine times out of 10 for MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany. Hulls was fully planning to play another two or three seasons of professional basketball.
"Is this something I'd be willing to give up playing for?" Hulls asked himself.
After weighing both sides with his wife, who he met at IU, and his three children – one who now speaks fluent German – Hulls realized it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. Coming home to Indiana, Hulls will learn from the NBA veteran Woodson while recruiting high school talent to play for the Hoosiers.
"I would have played until my legs would no longer let me play," Hulls said. "If I wasn't going to be playing, this was the only other thing that I'd rather be doing."
When Hulls accepted the job, he was admittedly fearful of the transition from player to coach, knowing that he'd miss lacing it up with his teammates. Playing professionally for the last nine years, competing for the Hoosiers the previous four, plus four years of high school and AAU, basketball was deeply embedded in his life.
"I've always been a gym rat," Hulls said. "It's kind of odd that I'm not gearing up for the next season like, 'Alright I gotta work on my handles today. I gotta get my reps up."
Hulls realized that even if played until he was 40, he'd still miss basketball no matter when he decided to retire. Although his playing career is over, he's still found a way to feed his hunger for competition. A few days ago, Hulls said he hit over 40 3-pointers in a row. And maybe he'll join a 5 a.m. men's league so he can still get buckets, Hulls joked.
Since joining the Indiana coaching staff, Hulls said he has tried to be a mentor for current players, relating to them and helping in any way he can. He has continued to build a relationship with fellow Bloomington South legend, Indiana Mr. Basketball and 3-point sharpshooter, Anthony Leal. Hulls said they have worked on shot preparation, and he is trying to give Leal the confidence to shoot the ball when he's open.
The two have know each other for a long time, and are now working to build an Indiana team with high expectations. Part of meeting these expectations to contend for a Big Ten title will rely on improving Indiana's 33.3 percent 3-point shooting, which ranked 11th in the conference last season.
"Obviously 3-point shooting is an area that we like to keep working on and improving," Hulls said. "Everybody every summer is going to try to do that ... From my personal experiences and what I can relate to them, being the shooter that I was, hopefully those are things that will be able to carry over to the court."
In his first few weeks back in Bloomington, Hulls has embraced his new role on the sidelines. Admittedly, Hulls is tasked with responsibilities he hasn't necessarily done before. He went on his first recruiting trip over the weekend to the Charlie Hughes Indiana Boys' High School shootout, where he watched some of the state's top talent, including a top-five player in the nation, Xavier Booker.
And so far, Hulls said the Indiana coaching staff has down a great job integrating him with the goals of the offseason. He trusts Woodson's longtime NBA experience, which was part of the reason Hulls took the job at Indiana. Hulls has loved picking Woodson's brain, and said it's been refreshing to see the emphasis on fundamentals.
While he might miss his playing days, Hulls is excited for the future of the Indiana basketball program, led by Woodson.
"[Woodson] is really good at meshing what he's been able to do and what he envisions for the program," Hulls said. "Building that culture is something that is really exciting to be a part of."
Related stories on Indiana basketball:
- HOOSIER HYSTERIA SLATED FOR OCT. 7: Indiana University athletics announced on Monday that Hoosier Hysteria, the annual tip-off of the men's and women's basketball programs, will be held Homecoming Weekend on Friday, Oct. 7. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA GETS NORTH CAROLINA: Indiana will host North Carolina in the 2022 Big Ten/ACC Challenge. This matchup will feature Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis versus North Carolina's Armando Bacot, two of the top players in college basketball. CLICK HERE
- XAVIER HOSTS INDIANA IN GAVITT GAMES: Matchups set for the 2022 Gavitt Games, featuring eight games between Big Ten and Big East teams. The Indiana men's basketball team will hit the road to play the Xavier Musketeers, who enter their first season under head coach Sean Miller. CLICK HERE