by Donnell Suggs / @suggswriter
As a highly recruited player and son of a college head coach, RJ Hunter might have a bit more pressure on him to live up to a certain set of standards.
Such is life for the young man with the target on his back, who every night, is matched up against a team’s best defender. But Hunter, son of second-year Georgia State head man Ron Hunter, seems to be making the smooth transition from high school star—he played on a state champion at Pike High in Indianapolis—to the college ranks.
He has started all 28 games this season and is averaging a team-high 17.4 ppg (he’s the Panters’ leading point producer as a freshman), 5 rebounds to go along with a 36.8 three-point percentage.
The team is currently 14-14 coming off of an impressive 78-60 win on Saturday at George Mason. Hunter scored a game-high 25 points on 10-19 shooting—a far cry from his previous performance at home Wednesday night in a win against visiting Hofstra where he managed 6 points, hitting three of his 10 field-goal attempts.
His first official collegiate game was at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, where GSU took a 74-55 drubbing, despite the freshman’s double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Blue Devils frustrated him into a 4-11 shooting night. The Cameron crowd had plenty to say to him about his playing for his father, no doubt.
The crowds at the GSU Sports Arena at the center of Georgia State’s campus in downtown Atlanta are about as loud and raucous as the one in Durham and support Hunter and his teammates during good games and bad. This season has had a little of both and the freshman guard’s play will be instrumental in the future plans as the team prepares to leave the Colonial Athletic Association and move into the Sun Belt Conference next season.
The team is ineligible for the CAA tournament this season due to that decision and with a mediocre record that will not be good enough for the NCAA Selection Committee to even glance in their direction, the next three games—two on the road and the season finale at home versus first place Northeastern—offer the star newcomer a few more chances to solidify his chances at being named the conference’s freshman of the year. A career high 38-point effort in a win at Old Dominion a few weeks ago might have locked that award up for the 6-5 guard.
Hunter’s game is that of a pure scorer, he is in constant motion on the court running around screens and picks trying to get free for his shot. Imagine Hall of Fame guard Reggie Miller or former UConn and Piston great Richard Hamilton. Coming out of high school, Hunter was recruited by a number of schools but the opportunity to play for his father—as many other high school stars have, from Allan Houston’s decision to play at Tennessee to Creighton star and future first-round pick Doug McDermott. In these cases, the coach did not have to go far to sweet talk the recruit into signing.
The Hunters and the rest of the Georgia State Panthers head into next season with a veteran squad—senior starting center James Vincent will be the only starter not returning—in a new conference. Hunter will be more experienced and ready to lead the team to post-season success. A son no doubt making his father very proud.