Hinton’s Maturation Lands Him Spot with D-II Power Northwest Missouri State
This summer, early in his final AAU season with M14 hoops, Jonah Hinton was trying to do too much. He was frustrated that his game wasn’t improving as fast as he had hoped.
A new attitude helped. Having confidence and enjoying himself started to pay off on the floor.
“I think a lot of young players put a lot of stress on ourselves with this expectation of being this social media (star) and being five-star recruits and things like that,” Hinton said. “They look at these people like role models and trying to be like them and instead of being more like yourself. I think I figured that out the second half of AAU … after the month of May I figured that out and my performance, I started to play more like myself. I was more aggressive, I was trying new things and a lot of that worked out and helped me out.”
Hinton, a 6-1, 165-pound guard, said the travel coaching staff, as well as basketball trainer Ryan Paradise, contributed to his changing mindset.
“I was trying to do too much,” Hinton said. “I was thinking on the court too much and that was causing me to turn the ball over, not be able to handle the pressure as well. Some of the pointers they gave me was just, ‘Keep it simple.’ I think that’s the best advice I got.
“Don’t make things too complicated,” Hinton added. “Just read a defender and make a move, read the secondary defense. And that really helped me as a point guard.”
Former RedHawks star Chris Conway, now a contributor at Oakland University, had similar advice for Hinton.
“I did not play varsity my freshman and sophomore year, but he (Conway) was there watching my games, giving me pointers, just giving me different things to do on the court, and another thing he was saying was to just keep it simple,” Hinton said.
Having long-held Division I dreams, Hinton elected to commit to Division II powerhouse Northwest Missouri State, which has won three of the last four national championships. The Bearcats’ current roster features Illinois natives Mitch Mascari, a redshirt freshman from Geneva, and freshman Luke Moustakas, a Brother Rice graduate.
“They had recruited me toward the end of my AAU season, but I had been looking at them and I went on a visit right before senior year started,” Hinton said. “The business school is really good and that’s what I think I want to major in. And their basketball program, they are the top Division II program. The system … the way they run their offense and things like that, success, winning, I really want to be a part of that type of culture.”
Next chapter🟢⚪️ pic.twitter.com/GZoFjQxHLq— Jonah Hinton (@JonahHinton2022) February 2, 2022
This season for Naperville Central, Hinton has become a vocal leader who has been willing to make plays late for a now 19-7 RedHawks squad. The RedHawks core has led them to 10 wins in their last 13 games.
“Jonah and Mantas Zilys and James Jopes, the three of them are a trio, but those two can really score in different ways and Jopes is more of a three-point specialist,” Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said.
Naperville Central fell to 6-3 in the DuPage Valley Conference after a loss to DeKalb Friday.
“Over the summer, I wasn’t really as vocal because I had other players around that me that they’re going to college to play basketball and that’s what their focus is, so we click better on that level,” Hinton said. “Naperville Central has definitely taught me to be more of a leader, be more vocal so I can get everyone on the same page as me.”
Jsmooth closes out Dekalb tonight with a game winning pull up jumper!!! Go RedHawks!!! pic.twitter.com/HyCuVlHKnl— James Hinton (@JamesHint0825) January 27, 2022
Hinton has already proven his mettle against the DVC, leading the RedHawks from 16 down in the fourth quarter in a 59-56 win over DeKalb and 10 down to a victory against rival Naperville North, 71-61. Sandwiched between that was a heavy 72-53 loss to Neuqua Valley.
The best cross-town rivalry win of the season tonight!!!— Jonah Hinton (@JonahHinton2022) February 5, 2022
Naperville Central 71 Naperville North 61
22 points (5 - 3pointers)
5 assists pic.twitter.com/3EDPLCNbLX
So it goes in the parity-filled DVC.
“He refuses to let his team or himself go down without a fight,” Kramer said of the comeback wins.
Kramer noted that he thinks that Hinton will grow yet, and needs to build muscle onto his frame to excel at the next level. But for now, he’s taking over games like he did against Naperville North and DeKalb.
“It was unbelievable,” Kramer said. “That stuff doesn’t happen unless you have a great leader, and that’s what he is. He makes his teammates better, he contributes every way he can in all aspects of the game. He’s a special player and I’m extremely happy for him to go to a school of that caliber.”
After developing his game in near every facet — Kramer says he shoots well from deep and in the mid-range, and is finding teammates for looks more than ever — Hinton is looking well-prepared to play at the collegiate level.
“He’s improved a ton from last year,” Kramer said. “We liked where he was at last year, but he’s put in a lot of hard work and just developed all aspects of his game. I think a big part of his game is maturity. He doesn’t get rattled.
“When he was younger he would maybe let certain things affect him,” Kramer added. “[But now] his composure is outstanding and kind of lets the game come to him a little bit more.”