Georgia State’s RJ Hunter is a mid-major name you’ll want to remember

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One of my favorite parts about mid-major basketball is learning about the diamond in the rough, watching the kid that wasn’t good enough to deserve a high-major scholarship grow into a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

Whether they are stars that led their team to deep NCAA tournament runs — Stephen Curry, CJ McCollum, Gordon Hayward, Kenneth Faried — or simply athletic marvels that worked harder than anyone else despite playing outside the bright lights of national TV — Paul George, Damian Lillard — doesn’t matter. These are the guys that we get attached to, simply because they actually end up hanging around the collegiate ranks for a few years before heading to the pros.

There isn’t a surefire NBA player in the mid-major ranks this season, but over the weekend, ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman pumped out a solid list of 20 guys that could end up cashing NBA paychecks down the road.

Some of the names you should know — Cleanthony Early helped lead Wichita State to last year’s Final Four, Sim Bhullar is the 7-foot-5 kid from New Mexico State that did this — and others should sound familiar — Allan Chaney began his career at Florida and Jerrelle Benimon spent two seasons at Georgetown — but the bottom-line is that those 20 names are the small school studs to keep an eye on this year.

But I have one more name for you: RJ Hunter, a rising sophomore at Georgia State.

RJ is the son of Ron Hunter, the head coach of the Panthers, which helps explain how the 6-foot-5 wing from Indiana ended up in Atlanta for college.

Hunter averaged 17.0 points and shot 36.5% from three as a freshman, helping the Panthers end their run in the CAA with a 10-win season. He’s tough as well, notching 5.1 rebounds despite carrying just 175 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame. As Georgia State moves on to become a member of the Sun Belt in 2013-2014, there are some things that Hunter can improve on, most notably his consistency. Hunter went for more than 25 points six times last season, including a 38 point outburst against Old Dominion, but also finished the year with six games in single digits.

That consistency will come with time, however. He was just a freshman, after all.

Which is why he’s a player you’ll want to keep an eye on during the upcoming season.

Four-star guard becomes LSU’s first 2019 commit

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Expected to be a factor both within the SEC and nationally this season, these are good times for the LSU men’s basketball program. Head coach Will Wade and his staff received more good news Tuesday, as 6-foot-2 combo guard James Bishop (Baltimore, Maryland/Mount St. Joseph HS) announced that he will be a Tiger next season.

Bishop, considered to be one of the top scoring guards in the class, is LSU’s first 2019 verbal commitment. Bishop’s pledge comes just over a week after his official visit to LSU, and just days after a visit to St. John’s. LSU beat out St. John’s, NC State, Marquette and VCU in the race for the Baltimore product, and given the Tigers’ current roster this is an important commitment.

LSU’s 2018 recruiting class is considered to be one of the nation’s best, with point guard Javonte Smart being one of the five-star prospects in that quintet (forwards Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams being the others). Add in sophomore Tremont Waters, who’s coming off of an outstanding freshman season, and LSU could be in a position next summer where its top two lead guards are at the very least testing the NBA draft waters.

Landing Bishop gives LSU another talented option, and some cover should the program lose either Waters or Smart — or both — in 2019.

Calhoun officially named head coach at DIII St. Joseph

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WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Jim Calhoun has officially been named the head coach at Division III University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut.

The Hall of Famer had already announced he would be taking the job and has been working for a year to establish a men’s basketball program at the small Catholic university, which was an all-women’s school until this school year.

Calhoun also has continued to serve in an advisory role at UConn, where he served as coach for 26 seasons and led the Huskies to three of their four national titles before retiring in 2012.

The 76-year-old will return to the sidelines with a career record of 873-380 when the Blue Jays open the season on Nov. 9 against William Paterson University.

That game will be played at Trinity College in Hartford, which has a gym that seats about 2,200 people, about 1,000 more than the gymnasium at Saint Joseph.

Oregon State announces addition of transfer Payton Dastrup

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Tuesday afternoon Oregon State announced that former BYU power forward Payton Dastrup has joined the program as a transfer. Dastrup, who averaged 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in just under eight minutes per game last season, has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Oregon State will file a waiver on his behalf in hopes that Dastrup will be granted immediate eligibility.

Should the waiver request be denied, Dastrup will not be eligible to play until the 2019-20 season. For Oregon State’s sake, even with Dastrup’s career numbers he would fill a need for a team that bid farewell to its best big man during the spring.

Drew Eubanks’ decision to turn pro left a noticeable hole in Oregon State’s interior rotation, with senior Gligorije Rakocevic and junior Ben Kone being the most experienced returnees. Those two combined to average 3.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 2017-18, with Rakocevic averaging 10.6 minutes per game in 27 appearances off the bench.

In addition to those two the Beavers add three scholarship newcomers to the mix this season in junior college transfer Kylor Kelley and freshmen Warren Washington and Jack Wilson. Dastrup has the ability to step away from the basket, which would give Oregon State a little versatility in the interior to go along with a perimeter/wing rotation led by Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson Jr. and Ethan Thompson.

Oklahoma State lands third 2019 commitment

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Oklahoma State managed to add another verbal commitment in its 2019 class on Tuesday, as four-star combo guard Avery Anderson III announced via Twitter that he will play his college basketball for Mike Boynton. Anderson picked Oklahoma State over offers from Florida, LSU, TCU and Texas Tech.

Anderson is Oklahoma State’s third commitment in the class, as the Justin, Texas product joins twins Kalib and Keylan Boone. The Boone brothers made their pledge in mid-April, and all three took official visits to Stillwater this past weekend.

Anderson’s commitment is key for two reasons. First there’s the fact that he can be used at either guard spot, and that versatility will be valuable for Oklahoma State once he arrives on campus. Also, while Oklahoma State will be quite young in the front court this coming season that isn’t the case on the perimeter.

Of Oklahoma State’s current crop of guards/wings only two, freshman Isaac Likekele and redshirt sophomore Michael Weathers, are underclassmen. The Cowboys have just one senior in the group, Mike Cunningham, but getting a guard in the 2019 class was key for Boynton’s program.

At this point, all 13 of Oklahoma State’s scholarships for the 2019-20 season have been filled with Anderson’s commitment.

Dan Hurley lands first commitment as UConn head coach

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First-year UConn head coach Dan Hurley landed his first commitment in the Class of 2019 on Tuesday, as four-star guard James Bouknight announced that he will play his college ball for the Huskies.

A native of New York that has played in the prep ranks for the MacDuffie School and has been a member of the same PSA Cardinals AAU program that produced Cole Anthony and Mo Bamba, Bouknight is a 6-foot-4 off-guard that still has quite a bit of potential to grow into. He’s an athletic scorer with upside, exactly the kind of player that UConn is going to need in a year where they will be losing Jalen Adams while Alterique Gilbert continues to struggle with shoulder issues.

Much is expected from Hurley at UConn, and he has found himself in the mix for a number of high-profile recruits in and around the Northeast. Putting together a couple of strong classes at the start of his tenure is critical for a coach looking to bring the Huskies back to the heights they were at under Jim Calhoun.

And Bouknight is a terrific was to start that process.