“I found what I needed...they checked all the boxes off for me so why wait?”Jakai Newton
COVINGTON, Ga. — Before the 2022-23 basketball season tips off next week, Jakai Newton is already making headlines.
The 4-star combo guard signed a scholarship to continue his basketball career at Indiana University — a program Newton has been committed to since Oct. 22, 2021.
Newton’s signing makes him more eager to resume his career.
“It’s official now,” Newton said. “I’m ready to get to work.”
Newton selected Indiana from a field of offers including Georgia, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia Tech and other college programs.
In fact, he was the Hoosiers' first commitment in the class of 2023. Now, the Hoosiers’ class of 2023 recruiting class is nationally ranked at No. 9.
Newton has a large part of that ranking as he is ranked No. 71 in the class of 2023, according to 247Sports and is the class’ No. 15 combo guard.
His early commitment was due to not wanting an opportunity to pass him by.
“I found what I needed,” Newton said. “They checked all the boxes off for me so why wait?”
Newton will be going from playing for a ranked high school team to playing for a ranked college program. Under the direction of second-year head coach Mike Woodson —- who is also a former NBA coach — the Hoosiers are ranked No. 13 in the country. Last year, they finished 21-14 overall with a 9-11 in Big Ten play.
Indiana advanced to the NCAA postseason bracket as the No. 12 seed, too.
The culture of Indiana basketball intrigued Newton the most.
“I love the atmosphere,” Newton said. “They’re crazy just like how I play. So, I can’t wait to get up there and do my thing.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior Ram visited the Hoosiers’ campus in Bloomington last fall just days before his commitment and attended Indiana’s Hoosier Hysteria season kick-off a few weeks back. Newton has another visit scheduled for when Indiana faces North Carolina on Nov. 30.
More so than playing for the Hoosiers, Newton looks forward to playing for Woodson.
“When I first talked to coach Woodson, he never talked with me about basketball. It was about being a young black man and about things I want to do outside of basketball,” Newton said. “He offered me and that stuck with me a long way.”
The Rams enter the 2022-23 season, by Maxpreps’ standard, as the No. 24 team in the nation. Their season tips off on Nov. 17 with a home matchup against Mays High School.
The senior Newton Ram was a pivotal piece to the team's Final Four finish a season ago.
Last year, Newton averaged 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He was recognized as a First Team All-Region honoree for Region 4-AAAAAAA as well as an All-State player.
Newton was also honored during two tournaments the Rams competed in.
First, he was voted a member of the "Hard in the Paint" All-Tournament team. Then, in Westlego, Louisiana, Newton earned the 2022 Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic Most Valuable Player when the Rams swept the tournament and captured the tournament championship.
But he’s been rehabbing a knee injury that will cause him to miss the beginning of the Rams’ season. Newton told The Covington News that he has a meeting with his surgeon on Nov. 22 and, if all goes well, will be back on the court after a month of conditioning.
Newton is sitting ready to return to the court.
“I can’t wait,” Newton said. “I’ve been itching to get back for six months. I’ve had nothing to do but just watch and learn. But I think it will make me a better player in the long run.”
After falling short of reaching the state championship round last year, Newton and his teammates enter the 2022-23 season with one goal in mind: winning a state title.
And, even though Newton will be a later arrival to the court, he plans to end his basketball career as a Ram with a bang.
“Winning a state title is what you get up for every day,” Newton said. “We’ve already had Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four. We gotta get that chip.”