After hitting a 30-foot shot to beat Baylor in the NCAA Tournament, R.J. Hunter – who will live on in March Madness highlight reels for decades to come – has decided to forgo his senior season and declare for the NBA Draft.
It was not an easy decision. On the one hand, he is hoping to fulfill a lifelong personal dream. On the other hand, it hurts his father’s prospects at Georgia State next season.
“Well, we spent a lot of time talking about (it),” Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “The first thing we talked about was it wasn’t about me. It’s about him and his career and what he wanted to do. I just told him that once we got through the process, the process is going to start one way: Either you’re going to be 100 percent committed to going or you’re going to be 100 percent committed to staying. There’s no in between – because I think that that hurts you more than anything else. So we talked abut the benefits of coming back and some cons of coming back. He’s been a two-time player of the year in the league and he realized how tough even defending that and doing those things were this past year.”
R.J. averaged 19.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists this season, leading Georgia State to a Sun Belt Championship and an NCAA Tournament win.
“If we hadn’t gone to the tournament and we hadn’t won a game and those type of things, there may have been a chance he would have come back,” Hunter said. “But after all that, I 100 percent agree with him. The dad and the coach – after all the information that we got back and where his mindset was – I was 100 percent both ways that he should go.”
Gottlieb asked Hunter what he heard. In other words, where does R.J. project in the draft?
“It’s not so much where he’s going to go because I think a lot of that has to do with how he does in his workouts, how he’ll do in Chicago,” Hunter said. “But at the end of the day, he wasn’t going to improve his stock any more by coming back to college. I think that was the big thing for us in that regard. I don’t think it was going to get any higher.”
That’s a byproduct, for better or worse, of playing for a mid-major.
“He gets knocked a lot of times because you’re in the Sun Belt and you don’t play high major schools,” Hunter said. “Well, guess what? Next year, we’re in the Sun Belt (and) we’re not going to play high major schools. If we were in the Big Ten or we were in a conference of that nature where . . . we could prove that wrong, then that may have been another conversation. But with a mid-major kid a lot of times, you kind of got to make that decision. And where we are right now, the information we got back, we just thought this was the right time.”