Ron, R.J. Hunter Get Father-Son Moment of Lifetime in Georgia St.-Baylor Stunner

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistMarch 19, 2015

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The 14th-seeded Georgia State Panthers were trailing the third-seeded Baylor Bears by two with under 10 seconds to go, and the ball was in R.J. Hunter's hands. The announcers on TBS were yelling for Hunter to take the ball inside.

Thank goodness he didn't listen. 

Hunter, the leading scorer on the team, found space from a few feet behind the arc. Now with less than five seconds remaining, he planted his feet and lined up his shot.

His father, Panthers coach Ron Hunter, sat nearby on a rolling stool he was relegated to after tearing his Achilles celebrating the team's win in the Sun Belt championship game on Sunday.

Everyone in the arena held his or her breath as R.J. bent his knees and released the ball. With only 2.6 seconds remaining, it went straight into the basket. Nothing but net.

As the crowd and the Georgia State bench leapt to their feet, Ron threw his hands into the air, lost his balance and belly-flopped off of his stool, a giant smile on his face the entire time.

Less than four hours into the first full day of March Madness action, and we already have a contender for the best moment of the tournament. In fact, it might be a contender for the best moment of any tournament.

Nina Mandell of For The Win called R.J.'s shot a "miracle" and his father's reaction "priceless."

Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports.com called it "one of the all-time classic 'No, No, No, No, YES!!!!' moments in NCAA tournament history." 

But I think Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated said it best with this tweet:

Brian Hamilton @_Brian_Hamilton

Honestly don’t care what else happens. One Shining Moment must be RJ Hunter’s shot/Ron Hunter falling off chair on endless loop

It was incredible to watch from the outside. For Ron and R.J. Hunter, it was (nearly) indescribable. 

"I can't tell you how I feel inside. That's unbelievable," Ron told reporters, per ASAP Sports. "I wish every dad in America could have that opportunity, what I just experienced with my son."

"It's unbelievable and a dream come true," echoed R.J., who finished the game with 16 points—12 of those coming in the final 2:39 when he went 4-of-4 (2-of-2 from three) and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line.

With R.J.'s game-winning shot, the Panthers became the 20th No. 14 seed to upset a No. 3 seed in NCAA tournament history. They also notched just the second NCAA tournament victory for Georgia State in school history, the first since their last trip to the Dance in 2001.

That this moment was possible at all is nearly unfathomable. 

R.J. almost didn't even join his father at Georgia State—both father and son had concerns as to whether it was the right thing to do, as Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore reported in a profile on R.J. earlier in the season. Ron reached out to every father-son coaching duo he could get ahold of before the two finally agreed it was the right decision.

Then after a stellar sophomore season, some thought R.J. would turn pro. However, he decided to stay at Georgia State after a heartbreaking, one-point overtime loss in last year's Sun Belt title game, hoping to get a chance to redeem himself and experience the NCAA tournament with his father.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 19:  Head coach Ron Hunter of the Georgia State Panthers puts his arm around son and player R.J. Hunter #22 after the Panthers 57-56 win against the Baylor Bears during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This year, after a solid regular season, Georgia State then almost squandered the NCAA berth in the Sun Belt championship, barely hanging on to beat Georgia Southern, 38-36. 

On Thursday in the Big Dance against the heavily favored Bears and with their ailing coach scootering along the sideline, the Panthers were down by 10 points with under two minutes to play. R.J. had been off all night. 

But R.J. found another gear in the final two minutes and, thanks to missed dunks, turnovers and terrible foul shooting by a choking Baylor team, had the ball in his hands down by two with the game on the line. Conventional wisdom would say to drive to the basket and go for the tie.

Instead, R.J. just did what his father had told him.

"My dad says shoot where you can see," R.J. told Moore last December. "I think I can see from full court."

Rick Wilson/Associated Press

The moment that R.J.'s shot dropped through the cylinder and his father fell off the stool is already a hysterical, awe-inspiring viral sensation, but it's also so much more than that.

It's about underdogs triumphing. It's about a skinny, 190-pound kid from a mid-major shaking off a bad night, putting his team on his back and becoming a hero. And it's about a father who loves his son and his team so much that his own well-being is quite literally an afterthought.

"I know I broke something else but it doesn't even matter," Ron Hunter said afterward, as Dan Wolken of USA Today reported.

The Hunters and the rest of the Georgia State squad now go on to face Xavier in the round of 32. But no matter what happens next, they are already a part of March Madness lore forever.

R.J. hasn't yet decided if he will declare for the NBA draft this year, but he came back for his junior season because he and his father wanted (at least) one more special moment together on the basketball court before the next phase of his life began.

I think it's safe to say they got one.  


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