Georgia State ran away from Life 85-62 on Monday in the Panthers’ exhibition opener in men’s basketball.
Coach Ron Hunter said it was a bit unsettling in the locker room before the game as he looked at eight news faces that he’d never coached in a game before.
One of those faces, R.J. Hunter III, was paternally familiar. R.J., Hunter’s son, scored 30 points in an effortless fashion. He hit 11 of his 20 shots, including four of his nine 3-pointers. At one point he scored 11 consecutive points in the second half.
The moment of the game occurred with four minutes remaining when Hunter missed a dunk. He got the rebound and hit the layup before walking over to the bench where coach/dad was waiting with either a smile or a well-hidden mask of aggravation. R.J., who had to go to the hospital on Friday with what Hunter thought was a broken foot that turned out not to be, blamed a cramp for his miss.
But it was a play made by R.J. later in the game that may portend a bright future for this year’s team, which lost four starters to graduation after going 22-12 last year. The Panthers will open at Duke on Nov. 9.
A few seconds after his dunk-turned-layup, R.J. fought two Life players for a loose ball, winning it once, only to lose it and then he fought to win it again. He eventually controlled the ball and broke down the court, where he saw Rashaad Richardson streaking down the right wing. R.J. made the simple bounce pass and Richardson tomahawked it for two of his 17 points.
Hunter said that was one of the stats he was happy to see: 30 field goals on 20 assists.
Here are a few more thoughts from the win:
Devonta White, the only returning starter, didn’t play because of a leg injury. David Travers, a freshman from California, handled most of the point guard duties. While Hunter said he was proud of how Travers played, he did struggle trying to beat Life’s press. He finished with three points, five assists and two turnovers in 17 minutes.
Hunter said he doesn’t want to play more than two freshmen at the same time, which may be made easier by the fact that he hopes to stick to an eight-man rotation.
Two other freshmen, forwards T.J. Shipes and LaRon Smith, barely played. Shipes had four points in two minutes. Smith one assist in two minutes.
Asked if Shipes and Smith would get more playing time in the next exhibition game, Hunter said that Shipes and Smith know he wants to play eight men. It’s up to them to play well enough to earn time. It seems probably that one of them will redshirt.
Vincent is a different type of big men than Eric Buckner, who was one of the best shot-blockers in the country as a senior last year.
While Buckner was tall, thin and quick, Vincent is more deliberate and uses his size to create space for layups on offense. Defensively against Life, Vincent against used his size to force awkward shots, rather than blocking shots like Buckner did.
Vincent, whose nickname is ‘Oak,’ said he felt comfortable in his 30 minutes.
The Panthers finished with four blocks, one by Vincent, but created 19 turnovers.
Hunter said if the Panthers are to replicate last year’s success, they will need Vincent to produce. Monday was a good start.
It’s been more than a year since Manny Atkins competed in a game. He transferred from Virginia Tech to Georgia State after the 2010 season and had to sit out last year, per the NCAA’s transfer rules.
It seemed like he tried to make up for all that lost time in a few minutes. He finished with nine points, but missed seven of his 10 shots. He had eight rebounds with five turnovers.
Hunter said afterward that he thought Atkins was pressing during the game, perhaps trying to impress family members who came to watch him play. But Hunter didn’t seem worried, saying he’s going to continue to give Atkins minutes so that he can grow comfortable.
Markus Crider, a one-time commit to Providence, finished with two points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
The team will need Atkins’ shooting and Crider’s all-around game to succeed this season.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu