On Thursday night, at the third annual GSU Jam, Hunter broke out the dance moves to the song “Hit The Quan” by iHeart Memphis.
Georgia State went on to defeat No. 3 seed Baylor in the Round of 64, thanks to a game-winning three from Hunter’s son, R.J. That shot made for one of the best moments of March Madness, as Ron Hunter fell of his rolling chair in disbelief.
R.J. Hunter is nowa a rookie with the Boston Celtics. Ron Hunter enters his fifth season with the Panthers.
Ron Hunter may not be recovered from his ruptured achilles tendon yet, but the Georgia State head coach is still competing at a level above his program’s conference.
Late on Wednesday night, Hunter landed a commitment from D’Marcus Simonds, a talented, 6-foot-4 shooting guard. Simonds was originally committed to Mississippi State but he reopened his recruitment after Rick Ray was fired by the university.
“There’s no place like home!” Simonds, a native of Buford, Georgia, said on twitter. “I will be continuing my basketball career and education at Georgia State University!”
Simonds is one of the more talented guards in the south, the No. 84 recruit in the Class of 2016, according to Rivals. Simonds will be a nice piece for Hunter to build around, as he’ll arrive on campus after Kevin Ware graduates and when Indiana transfer Jeremy Hollowell is a senior. Former top 150 recruit and Alabama transfer Devin Mitchell will be a sophomore that year as well.
Georgia State is coming off of an upset win over No. 3 Baylor in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA tournament.
Former Louisville guard discusses reasoning behind transfer to Georgia State
Last spring, guard Kevin Ware made the decision to transfer from Louisville and ultimately wound up at Georgia State where he plays for head coach Ron Hunter Sr. Of course Ware became a national story as a sophomore at Louisville, when his season came to an end in the first half of their Elite Eight win over Duke due to a broken shinbone suffered challenging a Tyler Thornton three-pointer.
But that moment became a bit of a burden for Ware, who wanted nothing more than to be discussed for what he was able to do on the court as opposed to the injury he suffered. Among the topics discussed in a story written by Thomas Lake of Sports Illustratedwere the circumstances surrounding Ware’s decision to leave Louisville after redshirting in 2013-14.
Ware has another explanation for his departure: He was tired of being treated like damaged goods. Sometimes it felt as if the sight of the injury was more traumatic than the injury itself — as if his coaches and teammates never quite recovered from Ware’s broken leg. In practice, when he went up for a layup or a blocked shot, he could hear the nervous silence.
“It got annoying after a while,” he says, “and I just really wanted to come home.”
That’s certainly understandable, and the decision is just one part of the story told about a player who is an important contributor for a team looking to reach the NCAA tournament. On a team led by high-scoring seniors R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow, Ware’s averaging 8.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
Hunter and Harrow are undoubtedly going to receive a lot of attention from opposing teams, which makes Ware’s role of supplementary scoring option an important one as Lake writes in his story. Georgia State has won three of its last four games, and in all three wins Ware’s managed to score in double figures (he scored just two points in a loss at Appalachian State).
Similar to his stint at Louisville, it’s taken Ware some time to find his footing within Ron Hunter’s system. And if he can build upon his recent play, Ware could be instrumental in getting the Panthers to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001.
Georgia State is fighting for a NCAA Tournament bid as a potential at-large team in a typically one-bid league, so the Panthers need all the help they can get this season. They won’t get any from freshman forward Jeff Thomas, as the Ohio native was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, according to a release from the school on Monday.
According to the release, Georgia State has gone through all appeals and considers the matter closed. The 6-foot-5 Thomas has yet to play in a game this season and won’t be able to help the team in 2014-15.
“We are obviously disappointed with the decision,” head coach Ron Hunter said in the release. “We will continue to support Jeff as he works toward his degree this year and look forward to him joining the team as a redshirt-freshman next year. We consider the matter closed and will continue to work on improving our team every day.”
As Hunter mentioned, Thomas does get to redshirt and will have four years of eligibility beginning next season. It certainly doesn’t help the Panthers this season, but Thomas staying an extra year gives them more insurance on the wing if R.J. Hunter opts to go pro after his junior year.
Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and without turning this into a physics lecture that you slept through in college, that’s essentially why your hand hurts after you punch a wall.
That law is easily applicable to March Madness. For every “One Shining Moment,” there is an equal and opposite moment of heartache. For all the jubilation and excitement that comes with thrilling comeback and buzzer-beating bucket, there is a team on the other bench that just had their hearts ripped out.
Every loss in March is devastating, but there may not have been one that hurt more than the loss that Georgia State suffered against Louisiana in the Sun Belt tournament title game a year ago. After a rough start to the year, the Panthers completely dominated the conference, finishing league play 17-1, a full five games in front of the team in second place. There really wasn’t a question about who the best team in the conference was. Georgia State was deserving of the Sun Belt’s automatic bid, but they still had to win the Sun Belt tournament title before they’d get a chance to dance.
With three minutes left in the title game, Georgia State was in complete control, leading Louisiana by nine. But the Panthers blew that lead, allowing the Ragin’ Cajuns to end regulation on an 11-2 run and force overtime when Shawn Long grabbed an offensive rebound and found a teammate for a layup with 1.4 seconds left. In the extra frame, the Panthers blew another lead and lost when star guard Ryan Harrow, who finished that day with 37 points, missed a jumper at the buzzer.
Georgia State was headed to the NIT.
“We should have gone to the tournament,” Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter told NBCSports.com this week. “We had a great year. We just had a bad seven minutes.”
Hunter locked up the film of those seven minutes for the entire offseason. No one on Georgia State — not Hunter, not his staff, not the team — watched tape of their collapse throughout the offseason, which was part of Hunter’s plan.
“First time we ever watched the Lafayette ending was the first thing we did the first day of practice,” Hunter said. “You could hear a pin drop. I didn’t coach it. I didn’t say anything. I told my assistants not to say anything. I wanted to see the kid’s reactions to it. They didn’t know it was coming.”
The film session that day may have been silent, but the first practice was a different story. It was intense. It was physical. It was chippy. There were a couple fights, which isn’t always a bad thing. The way Hunter tells it, that day set a new tone for the team and gave the program a new motto: Unfinished Business.
“I don’t think we handled [the loss] yet,” Hunter said. “Our whole target since we started lifting weights and working back in the spring is that we have unfinished business. We got to the NIT, we were excited about that. It wasn’t our goal, but what it did was made our guys hungrier.”
The Panthers will have a great opportunity to get to the NCAA tournament this season. Not only do they bring back Harrow, who you might forget was a top 40 recruit after the season that he had at Kentucky in 2012-13, but leading scorer and potential NBA Draft pick R.J. Hunter is back as well. Throw in the return of big man Curtis Washington and the addition of former Louisville guard Kevin Ware, the the Panthers have the look of a team that will be better this season than they were a season ago.
The team can sense it, Hunter says, and it comes through in the way that they have worked in practice. The community can sense it as well. Georgia State hosted a Midnight Madness event this week. It was close to sold out. When Hunter first took over in Atlanta there were only a couple of hundred people that showed up. “Our last few games, you couldn’t even get a ticket at our place,” he said. “We don’t even have a big place, but we have less than 75 season tickets left in our building. It’s incredible.”
The students are into it, but, more importantly, the city is starting to get behind the Panthers. Part of the reason for that is the presence of Harrow and Ware on the roster. Both are Atlanta natives who are well-known in the city after decorated high school careers. Ware and Hunter are talented kids, but it’s their hometown that made them such a priority for Hunter to recruit.
“We’ve got guys from the city that people recognize and know and are going to come to games,” Hunter said.
“Bobby Cremins … made Atlanta a basketball city. When I took this job, I said I wanted to turn Atlanta into a basketball city again.”
Georgia State guard Kevin Ware will miss time with high ankle sprain
Georgia State is the heavy favorite in the Sun Belt this season as the back court duo of Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter returns from a team that came a game away from making the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers became even more intriguing this offseason with the addition of Louisville transfer and guard Kevin Ware. Ware was a medical redshirt at Louisville last season after dealing with the aftermath of a gruesome leg injury and is cleared to return this season at Georgia State.
While a high ankle sprain isn’t a season-ending injury, it can be a lingering injury that is difficult to fully recover from. Given Ware’s injury history, a high ankle sprain could result in him missing a good chunk of time.
Ware’s injury might not cause him to miss many games — if any — but Georgia State has high aspirations this season and needs Ware if they hope to maximize them. This will be an injury to monitor over the next few weeks as we get closer to the season.