Bloomington, Ind. – Basketball has been a way of life for Jalen Hood-Schifino since he can remember. It started with pickup games at his grandparents house, and today it's working towards a starting role for the Indiana men's basketball team.
But before he became a five-star recruit and the headliner of Mike Woodson's top-10 recruiting class, Hood-Schifino was the young kid losing to his older cousins in backyard pickup games.
"They just pushed me every day," Hood-Schifino said. "When I was younger they used to bully me, so I always took it to heart."
The memory of getting beat by cousins stayed in the ultra-competitive Hood-Schifino's mind, fueling him to improve his game. It wasn't until he turned 12 years old that he could compete with his cousins, and by the start of high school he was strong and skilled enough to start winning some games.
Hood-Schifino transferred to the basketball powerhouse Montverde Academy ahead of his junior year, where he consistently played against the top high school competition. He worked his way to becoming a top-25 player in his class, and now when he heads back to his grandparents' backyard for pickup games with his cousins, it's a different story.
"It really bred me into who I am now," Hood-Schifino said. "Now I don't lose no more."
Hood-Schifino has the tools to hit the ground running at Indiana, first and foremost his on-ball defense. ESPN's Paul Biancardi rated Hood-Schifino as the best defender in the class of 2022, something he has taken pride in from an early age.
"I'm just very competitive, and I would hate for someone to ever say they got the best of me," Hood-Schifino said. "As I grew up I always just wanted to be the best defender and make sure no one ever got the best of me."
It starts on the defensive end for Hood-Schifino, but he considers himself a true point guard while also being able to play alongside returning Indiana point guard Xavier Johnson. He's a film junkie, too, often watching tape of last year's Indiana team to better understand defensive schemes and where he can fit in, offensively. Hoos-Schifino also watches film on former NBA players like Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant, as well as current floor generals like Chris Paul, Luka Doncic and Devin Booker to improve his game.
"Now that I'm here, it's great because I get to break down film with the coaches and everything so it's been good," Hood-Schifino said.
As a young player, Hood-Schifino is admittedly nowhere near as good as he can be. He's working on all parts of his game this offseason, but his 3-point shot in particular. He's also bought in to Indiana Director of Athletic Performance Cliff Marshall's offseason training program. Hood-Schifino arrived in Bloomington on June 2, and said he's already seen a difference in his body.
"Aside from him being a strength coach, [Marshall] is just a great guy outside of being in the weight room," Hood-Schifino said. "He does a great job of sending motivational messages, and as far as being in the weight room, he does a great job with us working on our body, making sure we're staying on top of our nutrition so overall it's been great for me."
Hood-Schifino approaches his freshman year at Indiana alongside Montverde Academy teammate Malik Reneau, but this wasn't always supposed to be the case. Reneau was originally committed to Florida, but he reopened his recruitment when head coach Mike White left for Georgia. Hood-Schifino was with Reneau when he de-committed from the Gators, making sure Woodson and the Indiana staff took advantage.
"As soon as that happened, I literally texted my coaches like, 'We have to get on Malik,'" Hood-Schifino said. "So as soon as I said that, the coaches got on him and they did a great job of recruiting him."
Hood-Schifino and Reneau led Montverde to victory in the GEICO National Championship game in their senior year, and now they'll team up at Indiana. So far, Woodson and his coaching staff have been tough on the freshmen in an effort to speed up them up to the college game. Hood-Schifino knows it's tough love because of the strong relationship they've already formed off the court.
"I think people will get to see a lot of my game and how much better I've got since the high school season, and how much more expanded my game has got," Hood-Schifino said. "I think it's going to be good."
Jalen Hood-Schifino Photo Gallery
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