“Welcome to Hunterville.”
With that dry-erase declaration, a group of Georgia State’s fans are expressing their devotion to coach Ron Hunter and his men’s basketball team by camping out in front of the Sports Arena tonight. The Panthers (11-4, 3-1) will host UNC Wilmington on Thursday. The game, now known as the “Barefeet for bare feet game” because Hunter will coach without shoes and socks, will assist the charity Samaritan’s Feet in raising money to provide shoes for needy children all over the world. Here’s more about Hunter, his work with the charity, and how he was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.
Undergrad Nick Bray, a junior from Newnan, was inspired to found the city by Duke’s Cameron Crazies, who create “Krzyzewskiville” before every game home. Unlike the hundreds that gather in front of Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, Bray expects between nine and 12 people to join him on a cold Wednesday night. He and fellow undergrad Bryan McNatt of Kennesaw are camped out in front of the Sports Arena, at the corner of Collins and Decatur Streets.
Bray, the leader of the student section and who wears a red basketball jersey and blue bow tie to home games, decided on Monday to pitch the tents after travelling to watch the Panthers play at VCU last week.
“VCU made me realize what a home crowd can do,” he said
Hunter said he’s never had any students do anything like this for him in 17 seasons at IUPUI. He visited the tent city Wednesday afternoon before practice and said he was going to visit them again after practice. He’s also planning a doughnut delivery for the residents of his namesake hamlet in the morning.
“It’s impressive,” he said. “I’m humbled that they’ve got something like that going. I’m proud not just for the players, but for the university.”
Bray decided to go with the “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” route when he set up his green and blue tent at the foot of the escalators that take fans up to the basketball court. However, officials from GSU’s facilities and campus police division came by and didn’t demolish Hunterville before the first meal, likely burritos Willy’s from down the street, could be consumed.
Bray and McNatt said there’s not a lot of homework to do because classes just started, so they would likely pass the time with pop-a-shot or by playing a beanbag game.
Because of the past vagaries of ticket counts and attendance figures, officials aren’t sure of the last time the Sports Arena hosted a sell out in its current capacity of almost 3,831. Thursday’s game was close to selling out earlier this week. Bray is doing his part to promote the cause. He says he will be there for every home game the rest of the season, no matter the weather.
“I want to make people realize it’s now or never,” he said.
I linked to it above (if you’d like to read), but here’s the top to a story that is up on ajc.com right now…
On a rare moment away from his first season coaching the Georgia State basketball team, Ron Hunter walks into the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for the first time. He immediately focuses on the nine pairs of shoes, worn by those who have been inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.
“I can’t get over the shoes,” he says, more than once.
Hunter was invited to tour the King Center to discuss how his admiration for the civil-rights pioneer has influenced his own work to provide shoes to needy children all over the world.
WANT TO HELP?
If interested in helping Samaritan’s Feet, you can do your part by purchasing a $22 ticket to Thursday’s game. Ten dollars from every ticket will be donated to the charity.
Click here if you want to purchase in advance. Use the promo code FEET.
If you already have a ticket, you can donate $10 at the game, or you can bring in a new pair of children’s shoes and/or a new pair of socks. Please don’t bring used shoes. They can’t be donated.
If you can’t attend the game, but want to help, you can donate by texting SHOES to 85944, and a $10 donation will be added to your cell phone bill. Message and data rates apply.
On Monday, Hunter and his team will give away free shoes to 200 Atlanta-area children at the Blank Family YMCA.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu