The Georgia State Panthers basketball team takes the court in less than one month and new head coach Ron Hunter will be extremely busy in the meantime. He will use this time to recruit, prepare his current team for his up-tempo style of play and help the charity Samaritan's Feet try to raise $10,000 by October 15, the day his Panthers begin practice.
Hunter comes into a program that has lacked energy lately; not only will he be expected to provide that extra spark, but he and his Panthers must win at a pace that can keep up with the ever increasing talent level of the CAA. The same conference that has sent two teams to the Final Four since 2006, George Mason and most recently VCU, while GSU has watched from home in Atlanta.
What will it take for Hunter to be considered a success in Atlanta remains to be seen. Most expect Hunter to win and win often, which would give him a leg up on previous coach Rod Barnes, who posted a 44-79 record overall and a 24-48 CAA record while at GSU. He ran a clean program and increased the school’s dangerously low APR, but Barnes was just not able to find ways to win and was let go with a year remaining on his contract. But if anyone is worthy of replacing such a high character man such as Barnes, it is Hunter.
Hunter, who as the head coach at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis for 17 years compiled a 293-219 record and received national attention for coaching barefoot at times to help raise awareness for children across the world that live without shoes. He has been on several mission trips and delivered hundreds of thousands of shoes in partnership with Samaritan’s Feet. He even plans on taking his Panthers with him on his next trip. He has also been honored previously by ABC as their “Person of the Week” for his work.
Recruits are already buying into what Hunter is selling, too. His son, RJ Hunter, largely considered one of the better forwards in the class of 2012, has already verbally committed to the Panthers over the likes of Wake Forest, Iowa and Virginia Tech.
Tony Kimbro Jr., who Hunter snagged late in the signing period, comes in this year ready to contribute after getting looks from Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Western Kentucky. These are two recruits who under previous staffs would not have even considered GSU. Fans hope these are the first of many higher profile players to don Panther Blue in the years to come. Especially considering Hunter has seven scholarships to hand out next year, one of which will be for his son RJ.
Until Hunter and his team give them a reason not to be, the fan base is fired up. No one expected such a high level coach to be brought in, and Hunter is doing and saying all the right things to boot. When practice tips off in just under a month the GSU faithful hope that Hunter can not only provide enough shoes to reach his goal, but provide that spark the Panthers have lacked for years.