Panthers say they are having fun again

Sorry that it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been enjoying some time off. I hope you are getting some time off, as well.

When Ron Hunter took over Georgia State’s basketball program, he discussed how he wanted the players to regain the fun feelings they had while playing in high school.

He didn’t want he culture of losing that seemed to permeate the program to beat his team before he even got a chance to start implementing his systems.

And then they started off losing the season’s first three games.

Hunter said it was the best thing could have happened.

“We had just 2 ½ weeks to prepare for the season,” he said. “When you have a new team, new system, new coach, it’s just too early. It’s just too early and you play some established basketball programs. I had to make changes. I realized there’s certain things I couldn’t do that I’ve done the past 17 years.”

He simplified the defense and the team has rattled off seven consecutive wins with a chance to tie the record for the school’s longest win streak against Utah Valley on Saturday.

Basketball is fun again, said the players.

“It does feel like high school, having fun, winning,” said forward Eric Buckner, who is averaging 10.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game during the win streak.

Guard James Fields said the team seems comfortable taking advantage of the different skills each player has.

“It’s clicking because everyone is being themselves,” he said. “We have different types of shooters, different things different guys do well. We are putting it together.”

It would have been easy for the team to fold after those first few losses to Washington, Portland and Florida Atlantic, each considered NCAA Tournament-caliber before the season.

Jihad Ali said instead the key to the turnaround was exactly what Hunter wanted them to do.

“We got back to the basics of having fun and working hard on the court,” he said. “It’s pretty much why we are on the seven-game win streak.”

But can they keep it up? Hunter said it takes more than a few wins to overcome the 58 losses the senior class experienced the previous three seasons.

“I’m really proud to see these kids smiling and enjoying basketball again,” he said. “What I’m concerned about is, it’s almost like they are waiting to see the bottom fall out. Around here, there’s not been much success. From the very first day, I’ve said ‘Why not now? Show me some book that says we can’t now.’ ”

So what will it take?

The Panthers’ win streak hasn’t been built against a NCAA Tournament line up. At No. 188, McNeese State has the best RPI, according to realtimerpi.com. The rest of the victories came against teams that don’t crack the top 200, with four in the 300s.

Hunter predicts that if the team keeps winning deep into January perhaps that nervous feeling will finally subside. A good barometer will be a three-game stretch in early January against Drexel, followed by road games at VCU and George Mason.

“With so much losing that’s gone on here, everybody waits for something bad to happen,” he said. “What it’s really going to take is something in late January when you look up and say things are still the same. Not so much still the same that we are undefeated, but that we are playing well and playing with consistency.”

A look at the first three games, compared to the last seven:

Category                                First 3                                Last 7

Points per game                     70.7                                 73.7

Opponent ppg                         80.3                                  49.4

Rebounds per game             33.7                                  41.1

Opponents rpg                       34.7                                  33.1

Field-goal percentage         41.2                                  45.0

Opponent FG percentage   52.9                                 32.6

– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu

18 comments Add your comment

BluePhi92

December 15th, 2011
9:59 am

Thanks for the update Doug. I really like what Coach Hunter, Coach LaBarrie, and the rest of the staff are doing. Things are looking up and I think they will continue. The games are exciting and more fans are coming out to the games.

Panthersville.com

December 15th, 2011
10:32 am

Good to see them enjoying it again, it is a game after all.

zgoldatl

December 15th, 2011
10:35 am

Thanks for the update. Looking forward to the rest of the season and more specifically showing GA Southern who the real GSU is. Go Panthers, Bleed Blue!!

GStateBen

December 15th, 2011
11:16 am

Nice piece Doug. As CRH has said, he does not need to apologize for anyone for winning.

Onto Utah Valley then home with Georgia Southern.

Best record in the state. CRH and staff wanted to play UGA and Georgia Tech this season. Neither wanted to schedule us this season.

Panther08

December 15th, 2011
11:29 am

I’ve been follow Georgia State Basketball for a while now and I can tell you if this was last year with the same schedule….we WOULD NOT have as many wins. Hats off to Coach Hunter and his staff for putting confidence into the kids. The sky is the limit as far as where he can take this program.

English

December 15th, 2011
11:33 am

Great job Hunter!

Good write up Doug but next time don’t start off by saying you’re sorry. It shows that you personally know you should be doing a better job at covering GSU athletics and and secondly it’s not professional. Once you start carrying your weight you won’t feel so guilty. Continue to do your job and write your assignments on time and don’t appologize in your first sentence.

Go State!

English

December 15th, 2011
11:36 am

The thing that sticks out to me is our rebound margin between our 3 game losing streak and our 7 game winning streak. What I’d also like to see is our foul per game and turn overs per game during both streaks. I feel like we’re playing smarter basketball by staying out of foul trouble and taking care of the ball more. These hardly show up in popular stat columns but I feel they dictate how well a team is playing.

Go State!

STATEment

December 15th, 2011
12:09 pm

I have been going to games for 7 years and every year I get my hopes up for a strong season and after a couple weeks in those feeling subside. I am more than happy with what I have seen so far this season and hope, like everyone else that they don’t get overconfident and have the bottom fall out! Panther fans are due something to be proud of! Keep it up guys!!!

Stateside

December 15th, 2011
12:20 pm

This is translating into fans having fun, too. Thanks for the write-up, Doug!

AgentOrange

December 15th, 2011
12:29 pm

I don’t think it’s that we’re playing tomato cans it’s that we’ve been blowing the doors off those teams. If we were winning by 5 points it would be different. I just hope CRH can continue to good job and give us something to be proud of the rest of the season. All aboard the GSU tournament train.

FIRE CURRY

December 15th, 2011
12:43 pm

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English

December 15th, 2011
1:17 pm

We’ve definitely been playing tomato cans. The overall record of the teams that we’ve played is 29-66 and our SOS is dead last in the latest poll. Let’s not be confused – We’re definitely playing cupcakes, but that’s not to exclude how much we’ve been able to grow and develop as a solid unit. Winning breeds more winning and Hunter has got us playing really good basketball. Let’s keep up the hard work.

Go State!

GSUGrad06

December 15th, 2011
4:35 pm

Beating these “tomato can” teams is better than what would have happened last season which would have been loosing to them.

RidgeRunner

December 15th, 2011
4:36 pm

Hope this is all about more good times in the future.

English

December 15th, 2011
5:44 pm

Agreed GSUGrad06. It’s good that we’re beating the teams we feel we’re better than and hope that confidence tranfers to the more well coached/talented teams. Keep up the good work Panthers!

Go State!

itsmeagain

December 15th, 2011
6:23 pm

We aren’t just beating teams, we’re demolishing them. Reason says that if we steadily increase the competition, the gap between our score and the opponents score should shrink. I’m curious to see what level of competition it would take for us to be evenly matched.

GSU_MEX_PANTHER

December 15th, 2011
11:44 pm

I can’t wait to see how they handle this upcoming road game! Go panthers!

Panther News & Notes: 12.15.11

December 16th, 2011
9:29 am

[...] Hunter is instilling a winning culture and making sure that the team is having fun on the court. Senior Jihad Ali said: “We got back to the basics of having fun and working hard on the court. [...]