Skip to main content

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Mike Woodson and his Indiana basketball program got its first commitment in the 2023 class on Friday when 6-foot-3 guard Jakai Newton of Covington, Ga, said yes to the Hoosiers.

Newton was just in Bloomington last weekend for a visit with his family. He was already feeling pretty good about the Hoosiers, but the visit sealed the deal.

Indiana assistant coach Yasir Rosemond was the primary recruiter on Newton. The first-year Hoosier coach, who has strong Georgia roots, was already familiar with  Newton when he was hired, and Indiana quickly got into the mix.

Newton had narrowed his list to three schools before Friday's announcement, and the Hoosiers beat out Tom Crean's Georgia team and Vanderbilt. He had made visits to Georgia, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Auburn, but the Indiana visit blew all of the others away, Newton said.

“It just made me feel special, like a part of their family,” he told The Daily Hoosier. “The fans, coaches, players, everybody.”

Newton’s parents, Brandon and Bettina Newton, were on the visit, as were his brother Kyron and sister Avani. 

His mother, Bettina Newton, who tweeted over the weekend how impressed they were with everything in Bloomington, was thrilled with her son's choice as well.

Newton had a huge summer and really raised his stock. Rosemond already liked him a lot, and it didn't take much to convince Woodson that Newton was a player worth pursuing. 

Newton is very athletic with long arms, and is a great two-way player. He has a 6-foot-10 wingspan, shot 34 percent from three-point range as a sophomore on a Newton High School team with at least a half-dozen college recruits. Covington is an Atlanta suburb east of the city.

Newton is considered a combo guard and a lockdown defender with his quick feet and long arms. He impressed scouts and coaches all summer with his ability to attack the rim, and has a good perimeter game as well.

Read More

Newton said he was impressed with Woodson, Indiana's first-year coach who has been in the NBA as a player and a coach for the past four decades.

"Getting to spend all that time with the coaches, see the practices, we got a great feel for the campus,'' Newton told “All of it together, meeting the coaches and everyone the first day, seeing how humble and cool coach Woodson is, seeing all the students, seeing how the players interact with each other and with coach Woodson, we enjoyed all of it.

“I knew he was an established coach, but I didn’t really know what to expect. We talked about real estate, about life. He talked about life outside of basketball. He talked about how he wants to teach each of his players how to manage money because you can’t play basketball forever. He talked about how he would help me as a person and as a player. As far as being humble, you can’t really tell he’s a famous person. He takes pictures with everybody. People walk up to him and say hi. He’s super nice to everybody.”

Newton said one of the things that really stood out on his visit was that Indiana was clearly a basketball-first school, which his other favorites weren't. He noticed the difference.

“It was funny, when we went to the football game, fans were cheering my name,'' Newton said. "That’s the first time that’s happened. We were in the game and the people in the student section were cheering me and chanting my name.”

What can Indiana fans expect from Newton when he gets here in two years?

“I think he has the chance to be an all-league player,'' his high school coach, Charlemagne Gibbons, told Jeff Rabjohns on "I know the Big Ten is a tough league, a physical league, but he has that build. He can really shoot the basketball. He’s athletic. He’s skilled.

“I think he’ll get mismatches with that athleticism. I could see him being an all-league player. He has a very high ceiling. As far as pro, I don’t go that far on high school guys. He has a high ceiling, but I’m not going to disrespect the best basketball league in the world.”

Team recruiting rankings don't mean much this year, but Newton's commitment made Indiana the No. 4 ranked 2023 class in the composite rankings.

Indiana's 2022 class, which include Jalen Hood-Schifino, Kaleb Banks and C.J. Gunn, is currently ranked No. 12 nationally.