South Africa and SEALs…or how GSU hoops spent the offseason

If you hear a Georgia State men’s basketball player say “Zero, Zero, One,” it’s not some bit of pop culture fluff or the name of one of coach Ron Hunter’s complicated defenses.

It’s something that could be the key to matching last year’s successful 22-win season as the team prepares to begin practice on Friday.

To build camaraderie and mental toughness on a team that features nine new players, Hunter had them do some unusual things this summer:

• He hired a former Navy SEAL to put his team through some exercises;

• He hired a sports psychologist;

• And he took them on a trip to South Africa;

On that trip, part of Hunter’s efforts with the charity Samaritan’s Feet, the team constantly heard children saying, “Zero, Zero, One.”

No one knew what they were talking about.

“Zero, Zero, One,” is part of a prayer that children say daily. If there’s not food for breakfast or lunch, can their please be something for dinner?

“All of our kids are going to eat,” Hunter said. “One of things the players will say is ‘0-0-1,’ a reminder that it can be a lot of worse.”

Hunter topped that by putting the kids through several days of training at a local middle school led by former SEAL John McGuire. It was something that VCU has done. Georgia State players carried inflatable boats over their heads and pushed themselves physically to a point they had never before experienced.

“It was harder mentally than it was physically,” said guard Devonta White, who estimated he did 600 push-ups in two days. “It’s going to help our team mentally. When we think we can’t go further … we can fight through anything that happens in a game.”

It seems to have worked. Hunter said the players no longer complain after workouts.

Of course, Georgia State’s real practices haven’t begun and Hunter promises to be even more intense this year.

This year’s team will be led by White, the only returning starter, and key reserves-turned-starters Rashaad Richardson and James Vincent. Hunter expects that Manny Atkins, who sat out last year after transferring from Virginia Tech, and his son R.J., who must call Hunter “Coach,” will round out the first five.

He plans to rotate eight players, and he said six players understand his system better than the rest, which means there are two spots up for grabs. The NCAA has yet to rule on Curtis Washington, a transfer from Southern California.

Denny Burguillos, a 6-7 forward, has been the surprise since offseason workouts began on June 6. Hunter describes him as a “face-up five,” meaning he can hit 3-pointers, and is a good passer and rebounder who fits into Hunter’s system perfectly. Plus, Hunter said Burguillos has a mean streak.

“When I yell at him, he yells back in Spanish,” Hunter said. “I don’t know what he’s saying. I assume he’s saying ‘Coach, I love you!’”

Few teams loved playing Georgia State last year. The Panthers forced 515 turnovers while limiting opponents to 38-percent shooting, including 31.5 percent from the 3-point line. The Panthers needed that defense because they hit 43.5 percent of their field goals, including 31.7 percent from the 3-point line.

Hunter doesn’t think points will be a problem this year with White, Atkins and Hunter. The team will continue to focus on learning Hunter’s schemes, which can switch from zone to man-to-man or some type of hybrid within the same possession.

Like last year’s team, Hunter said this group has quickly bought into his system as they prepare for the season opener at Duke on Nov. 9. When they get frustrated, they think about “Zero, Zero, One,” the SEAL training, or go talk to the psychologist.

Hunter is excited to try to better last year’s results.

“Now, it’s like putting together a cake,” he said. “You get all of these great ingredients together. We have all of the ingredients. I can’t wait to bake this cake and see what it tastes like.”

Georgia State key dates

First practice: 5 p.m. Friday.

First exhibition: vs. Life University, 7 p.m., Oct. 29.

First game: at Duke, 7 p.m., Nov. 9.

First home game: vs. Monmouth, 7 p.m., Nov. 19.

First conference game: vs. Drexel, 7 p.m., Jan. 2.

Other headlines

Georgia State football will play at Alabama and West Virginia in 2013 and at Oregon in 2015

Two ways Georgia State can become quickly competitive in the Sun Belt

Changes coming on Georgia State’s special teams

Notes, quotes and observations after Georgia State’s loss to New Hampshire

New Hampshire rains on Georgia State’s cash drop, game

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

14 comments Add your comment

Go Panthers

October 12th, 2012
8:40 am

“When I yell at him, he yells back in Spanish,” Hunter said. “I don’t know what he’s saying. I assume he’s saying ‘Coach, I love you!’”

Love this coach!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

0-0-1 indeed. I think I see a T-shirt opportunity on the horizon.
Okay PT get is done.
I want a shirt ASAP.

Great day to be a Panther!

RidgeRunner

October 12th, 2012
9:21 am

I believe this year’s team while very young does have a lot of promise. This should be an entertaining year as CRH does the payback number with the CAA schools that voted bar us and ODU from the damnference tournament.

Milwaukee's Panther Fan

October 12th, 2012
10:27 am

Really happy about what Ron Hunter is doing for GSU basketball! It has always been tough to be a fan of any Panther sports teams, but with the direction the men’s team is headed it won’t be that way for long.

I wish they would schedule a future game with Marquette, UW-Milwaukee, or UW-Madison.

Go Panthers!

GSU_MEX_ALUM

October 12th, 2012
11:26 am

Looking forward to seeing our team on the court!

GStateBen

October 12th, 2012
11:31 am

Absolutely awesome stuff. Expectations are certainly high for this team and program under CRH.

The fact that the CAA will downgrade Georgia State in every possible way will add more fuel to a man who needs very little to motivate his team.

The preseason magazines have the Panthers no higher than 9th out of 12 teams. I saw one writer even say that Manny Atkins was not even a Top 10 Transfer in the CAA this season. He played 56 games at an ACC school.

This team has very good experience in the top 4 players:
James Vincent 86
Rashaad Richardson 59
Manny Atkins 56
Devonta White 54

The key will how the newcomers gel and if Washington can be cleared. Absolutely looking forward to this season more than any any recent memory.

STATEment

October 12th, 2012
12:52 pm

I couldn’t be more excited for the season! Just ordered my season tickets and my ticket to the Duke game!!! Let’s go!!!!

Chicken Bone

October 12th, 2012
2:47 pm

Should be a great season! Give the CAA hell in the ATL and also take it to them on the road! GO PANTHERS! Where’s J. Heater?

GSUALUM

October 12th, 2012
4:31 pm

Nice, now our players are insulting the host state for this weekends game, who is in charge?

Albert Wilson ‏@MrKeepEmFroze
@A_Smith85GSU just asked did Rhode Island have college. ( why are we here Alex? )

Milwaukee's Panther Fan

October 12th, 2012
4:36 pm

Why do you have to bring up the football team in a BBall thread? GTFO with that trash, those guys don’t deserve to be mentioned in an article about Ron Hunter and our basketball team.

slimseville

October 13th, 2012
7:48 am

Can’t wait to hit the Sports Arena and attend some games this year!

[...] South Africa and SEALS … or how Georgia State’s men’s basketball team spent its of… [...]

[...] South Africa and SEALS … or how Georgia State’s men’s basketball team spent its of… [...]

[...] South Africa and SEALS … or how Georgia State’s men’s basketball team spent its of… [...]

[...] South Africa and SEALS … or how Georgia State’s men’s basketball team spent its of… [...]