Hope you’re all well. I attended spring practice Monday morning and then went to the Ron Hunter press conference in the afternoon. I have a few notes from the press conference that didn’t make it into the story and I’ll come back Wednesday with some football stuff.
1. Hunter is putting himself out there. He promised the team will win, talked about being in the finals of the CAA tournament next year and guaranteed that no one in the country will work harder than his team. (I’ve heard that before. How do you go about proving that? I guess maybe that’s why people make that guarantee.)
I suppose those are the things you say to get your fan base excited. I don’t doubt he doesn’t believe it, but, as I said, he’s put himself out there. Which isn’t a bad thing.
2. By NCAA rules, Hunter can practice the team until the Final Four, and he was going to work with players Tuesday and perhaps beyond to get a feel for what they can do. He said a few times that everyone is starting over.
3. Hunter said 90 percent of his players at IUPUI were from Indianapolis and 90 percent at Wisconsin-Milwaukee were from Milwaukee. As I mentioned in the story, his hope is that eventually all 15 players on the roster will be from Atlanta. I neglected to ask him about it, but athletic director Cheryl Levick mentioned that he has an “outside-in” strategy that he plans to employ at GSU. My assumption is that he’ll start outside Atlanta or the state to build up the program and then hone in on Atlanta after that.
4. Hunter said he might bring one staff member from IUPUI with him and might hire someone off of Rod Barnes‘ staff but was not committed to either. He said he’ll go to the Final Four (which is attended by practically every Division I coach and plenty more trying to get jobs) to hire.
5. Hunter has a pretty good shot at one member of the 2012 class. His son R.J. is a star at Broad Ripple High in Indianapolis and shares a backcourt with Marquis Teague, the brother of Hawks guard Jeff Teague. Hunter said R.J. is being recruited by Wake Forest, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I think if I recruit Mom, I might get him,” he said.
Hunter said he’s going to leave the decision on if R.J. will move down to Atlanta for his senior year up to him.
6. Hunter made an interesting point about recruiting Atlanta. Obviously, Georgia and Georgia Tech get first dibs on the best players and plenty of SEC and ACC schools come into the city and state. But there’s only one other mid-major school in metro Atlanta – Kennesaw State – and Georgia State doesn’t really recruit against it. At IUPUI, Hunter said, mid-majors Ball State, Evansville, Valparaiso and Butler were all within an hour.
“There’s no mid-majors,” he said. “We can clean up doing that.”
7. Levick said that the plan is to get GSU president Mark Becker’s approval on the first segment of the basketball facilities plan and start in the spring on putting coaches’ offices and locker rooms for men’s and women’s basketball on the third floor by the arena, though I don’t think all the money is in, and they won’t start until it is. The athletic department has different projects in place to renovate the arena, including turning the court 90 degrees, that altogether have a $36.7 million pricetag.
8. I don’t know if this year’s team is the best example of what he does, but I figured a team that presses for 40 minutes would force more turnovers than it does. IUPUI was sixth in the Summit League in steals (5.8 per game) and forced 12.0 turnovers per game, which was ninth in a 10-team league. Opponents shot 47.2 percent from the field, which was ninth.
Further, according to the numbers on the excellent basketball website kenpom.com, IUPUI was 320th in Division I out of 345 teams in adjusted tempo, or average possessions per game. Going back to the 2002-03 season, the highest his team ranked in adjusted tempo was that year, when it was 159th. (That was the year the Jaguars won the Summit tournament and lost to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament in a 1-16 game.)
This year, the Jaguars were 320th, 227th last year, 312th the year before that, 314th the year before that and 280th before that. I could well be missing something, but it’s not the fingerprint of an up-tempo team.
That said, his teams do some things well. His team this year was efficient offensively (They averaged 110.1 points per 100 possessions, 55th in the country), didn’t turn the ball over much and shot free throws well.
They led Ohio State in Columbus 50-41 midway through the second half and gave Oakland, the best team in the Summit, one of its worst losses of the season. And, of course, you go back to the record. He hasn’t been worse than fourth in the Summit since 2003.)
9. My $.02. He talks a good game, is charismatic and enthusiastic. I know he had those at the press conference, which included school administrators, staff, alumni and students, pretty riled up. He has put together a record of consistent winning at IUPUI and Georgia State isn’t the first school that’s had significant interest in him. Further, Levick has had a pretty good record of coaching hires.
I’m not quite as confident as Hunter that he’ll win, but I will hardly be surprised if it happens.
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