Ron Hunter enters his second season as Georgia State’s men’s basketball coach and isn’t doing so lightly. The Panthers, 22-12 last year, will open the season at Duke on Friday.
Aside from the fact that it’s at Cameron Indoor Stadium (Hello!), the Panthers feature seven players who didn’t see a minute of action last year. Many of those, such as Manny Atkins, Markus Crider and R.J. Hunter III, will be counted on this season.
Hunter say down for a Q&A to preview the season.
The second part:
Q: What’s the key to the Duke game?
A: Not letting the logo beat us. If somebody beats us, the players beat us. Not the coach, not the building, not the image, not what they’ve created.
A lot of times what happens is you’ll go in there and become so consumed about what’s around you that after the first seven minutes you are out of it.
It’s important that we don’t get consumed about who we are playing. It’s just like playing AAU basketball for a lot of the guys. Our guys have played AAU basketball against those guys. We are looking at this like it’s an AAU game that happens to be televised.
Q: Have you ever coached there?
A: Nope. I’m excited to coach there for a lot of different reasons. This is a great opportunity. I know I’ve got a great basketball program. In the next few years this is going to be an outstanding program. This is a great start for what we are trying to get done.
This is the best, hardest place to play in the country, bar none. It doesn’t matter what their record might be. What a great opportunity to throw our young people into this environment.
We are not walking in there thinking that we are trying to keep it close. I don’t want a moral victory. We don’t believe in moral victories at Georgia State.
I’ll be extremely disappointed if we don’t win the game. The kids will be disappointed.
Q: Is there a benefit to playing them in the first game, when maybe the young guys won’t know any better?
A: That’s what we are hoping a little bit. Whenever you play Duke, it’s the aura around it that you have to protect yourself from.
It wouldn’t matter if it’s first, the middle or the end, but I wanted it to be first because it’s a statement for our young people of where we are trying to get to.
Q: Which player on their team concerns you most?
A: All of their All-Americans concern me. I’ve got Burger King guys, they’ve got McDonald’s guys. My Burger King guys have to play up to McDonald’s guys. We don’t have to beat them out-of-seven. We only have to play them one time. For one night, my Burger King guys have to beat McDonald’s guys.
Q: Let’s assume that you win. How do you keep the guys focused on the next game at BYU?
A: That’s what we’ve been talking about since Day One. This is a great game for the university, the administration, the fans, the alumni. For us, it’s one game, win lose or draw we have to play Tuesday. The season doesn’t end. We’ll do the exact same thing. We’re preparing to win the basketball game. When the game’s over we’re preparing to play BYU.
That’s why I say we don’t want moral victories. At Georgia State we are trying to get to a certain level. Before I leave here I want this to be one of the top mid-major programs in the country.
When you do that you have to expect to win games like this. You don’t have to win series. This isn’t the NBA. It’s over with Friday night, win, lose or draw and we’ll move on to the next one.
Q: Which player on your team is the key to the season?
A: Tyler (Gamble), because if we are chanting Tyler’s name there’s a good chance that we are winning. Whenever I hear the Tyler chant, I know it’s like the kneel down in football. When they start cheering for Tyler, it’s game, set match.
When I hear, ‘We want Tyler,’ I am fired up.
I’m always going to put him in when I hear it. That’s our victory chant.
Q: I don’t think they are going to say Tyler at Cameron.
A: I’ve got enough people going.
– Doug Roberson, AJC and AJC.com. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu