I’ll never forget, back in 1998, I was sitting in the Oklahoma City Airport waiting to fly back home to Indianapolis. It was the opening weekend of March Madness and Valparaiso was on tv playing Ole’ Miss in Oklahoma City, when I watched Bryce Drew hit one of the greatest shots in NCAA tournament history. Down two points with 2.5 seconds left on the clock and the ball out of bounds on Ole’ Miss’s baseline, Jamie Sykes threw a beautiful rainbow pass to teammate Bill Jenkins, who then threw a perfect touch pass to a streaking Drew on the right wing. Bryce calmly caught the pass and in one motion released the ball into the air and right through the rim touching nothing but the bottom of the net. Game over!
Most college basketball fans have seen that shot replayed a thousand times. We’ve seen him dive to the floor and all his teammates and coaches pile on top a 1,000 times as well. What we don’t see as often is his embrace with his father afterwards. His father, of course, was Valpo head coach Homer Drew. While most fans forget that part, I’m sure former Pike High School standout RJ Hunter has watched that hug a lot. Like Drew, RJ is playing for his father, Ron, at Georgia State University and would love to share a similar moment.
RJ was recruited by several teams from major conferences but chose instead to play at a mid-major program, just like Bryce. RJ, now a junior, is coming off a season that saw him average 18.3 ppg, good enough to earn Sun Belt Conference POY. It also earned him an invite to the Lebron James Skills Academy where he wowed the counselors, scouts and media with his outside shooting. A player that most fans outside of Indiana or Georgia knew very little about were now seeing his name pop up on NBA draft rankings as a first round prospect.
RJ Hunter has all the skills that Zach LaVine believes he has
This is not the first time in RJ’s life he was a little overlooked. His first three years at Pike, RJ played in the shadow of future first round NBA draft pick Marquis Teague. He was also part of a loaded 2012 class that included current NBA rookies Gary Harris and Glenn Robinson III. Indiana Basketball Source had him ranked 11th behind players such as Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Perea, Rapheal Davis, and Ron Patterson.
After all the accolades he’s earned, RJ is playing this season with a giant target on his back. Every opponent’s defensive game plans will be to shut down Hunter. Even with all the added pressure, through the first seven games of the season, RJ is averaging a career high 22.9 ppg. This past Saturday Georgia State traveled to Indianapolis to face a team RJ grew up watching very close, IUPUI. Against his fathers old team, RJ scored 27 points and helped the Panthers pull out a close 66-63 win.
Those kind of numbers are sure to keep the scouts attention and if he can keep up his current production then entering the NBA draft after his junior season is not out of the question. The question is, would RJ even want to leave after his junior year? After all, he’ll never get the opportunity to play for his father again if he leaves early. Of course, if he leads the Panthers into the NCAA tournament this year then maybe he can do for his father what Bryce was able to for his and reach the Sweet Sixteen. Then he can hug his father and his father will thank him, then as Homer did for Bryce, send him into the NBA. All just a season sooner!
.@GSUPanthers finish CBE Hall of Fame Classic 3-1 with 83-78 win over Oakland. RJ Hunter now 5th all time in scoring in school history.