"For many men, the acquisition of wealth does not end their troubles, it only changes them." - Seneca
Game #9-266: Georgia State Panthers at Hofstra PrideJanuary 7, 2013 7:00 pm
Mack Sports Complex
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - Ron Hunter is a basketball coach. Most of the time
. That's why we like him so much. Hunter stayed at IUPUI for 17 seasons, guiding the Jaguars through the transition from NAIA school to Division I, making the NCAA Tournament in 2003.
Finally, two years ago, he decided to make a leap of sorts, moving to Georgia
State. It was a difficult assignment, other than a magical 29-win season (complete with Red Line NCAA upset
) in 2000-01 under Lefty Driesell, there wasn't much, not a winning season to be had in the Colonial Athletic Conference, which the Panthers joined in 2005.
But this was the CAA, you know VCU and George Mason, along with a few others that had made it one of the premier mid-major conferences in the country. And Hunter did win in his first season, despite some rough times toward the end, Georgia State finished with 22 wins, and an 11-7 record in the CAA.
Ron Hunter is not a politician. Nor does he play one on television.
Just about the time last season ended, Georgia State announced they were going "big-time" in college
football. They already played their home games in the Georgia Dome and had a recognizable coach in Bill Curry, but were now joining the Sun Belt Conference
to go after bowl games and the almighty dollar.
Hunter - who conveniently had hip replacement surgery
to give him a couple of weeks to cool off - tried as best as he could to be diplomatic, but he could not have been a happy camper. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
, "If I'm the President or AD, I think it's a great move. Sometimes in life decisions are made that aren't good for individuals but are good for the family. When I made the decision to come to Georgia State I left my family behind for a while. It wasn't good for them or me, but it will be good for the family."
Sadly for all of us, the CAA has somewhat imploded after Georgia State's move. Old Dominion is going to Conference USA for the same reason, and both were summarily banned from what would have been their final CAA Tournament. VCU ran off to the Atlantic-10. NC-Wilmington and Towson fell victim to the NCAA graduation rate numbers and were also banned from postseason play, meaning that this year's CAA Tournament in Richmond will include only seven teams.
And so Hunter came to the New York metro area Monday night for the final time as a member of the CAA. You wouldn't think the Sun Belt would ever expand into New York, but who knows these days, right? Hofstra's problems this season have been well documented here
in front of a friends and the Pride were losers of eight straight coming in, so it was a fairly depressing scene at the Mack Center, with a friends and family special for Hofstra's conference opener.
I was slightly early, so I stopped at a local mall for dinner, but couldn't find any Hofstra souvenirs, although I was only a couple of miles from their campus. I guess in their defense, there was very little from the NHL's New York Islanders, who play across the street. But there was plenty of New York Jets stuff. On sale, of course.
As you can see from the opening picture, the Hofstra cheerleaders try to get everyone to stand until the Pride score at the beginning of the game. They seem to have an uncanny ability of getting directly in my view of the action, which wouldn't be so bad if they scored quickly, but I think it was a combined 15 minutes in the three games I've seen at the Mack Center this season. But I digress.
Hunter lost six seniors from last year's team, but he gained a family member, when his son R.J. - who had some other offers - chose to go with dad and play for Georgia State. He leads the team in scoring as a freshman, but the Panthers came in at just 6-9, meaning their season is ending in February barring some kind of bizarre confluence of several unlikely events (like a 16-game winning streak to end the campaign).
So basically this game meant nothing, just like all of the games Ron Hunter will lead his team into the rest of the way.
But he's a basketball coach, remember. And it doesn't matter what the situation is or whether his team is going to the postseason or not, Hunter was into every play like he would have been at any of his seasons at IUPUI.
Rashaad Richardson opened the game with six straight points for Hunter and Devonta White's superhoop put them up 9-2. But that would not only be half of their superhoop total for the evening, it would be their largest lead. An exasperated Hunter put his hands in the air multiple times before pointing at people on his bench to go in.
At one point midway through the first half, there was a bizarre sequence when Hunter pointed at freshman T.J. Shipes. Shipes went to the scorer's table and removed his warm-up, but there was no jersey underneath, just a cut off white t-shirt. Shipes sprinted back to his seat on the bench. No jersey.
As it turned out, his jersey was back in the locker room, reappearing thanks to a student manager about a minute later. Regardless, Shipes would not be pointed at again by Hunter on the evening, officially recording a "DNP - Coach's Decision".
The play of David Imes and Stevie Mejia - a couple of seniors who have clearly gotten past the feeling sorry for themselves stage - gave Hofstra a 29-21 halftime lead, and the lead got as big as 12 on a Mejia superhoop with 15:41 left.
But the Panthers had some pride of their own, and used full-court pressure and some aggressive defense in general to climb back into it. However, they had several chances to tie or take the lead and just couldn't get it done, leading to some interesting exasperations from Hunter.
Finally, with 3:54 left, two free throws by Venezuelan Denny Burguillos (who was 2-for-8 from the line on the season before that pair) evened the game at 46.
Still, though, Georgia State could not go on top, and when - with the Pride leading by two - Hofstra's Stephen Nwaukoni grabbed an offensive rebound with 41 seconds left, things were looking bright for the home team. Until Richardson ripped it out of his hands. After a time out, James Vincent finished a putback (on his only field goal attempt of the evening) with 17 seconds left to even the contest at 50.
This, though, was Mejia's night, and Mo Cassara didn't call time out, allowing Mejia to run the show and hit a 5-foot leaner with 5.1 seconds left to put Hofstra in front. Devonta White got a decent look from 25 feet out at the buzzer, but it hit off the back of the rim (making the Panthers 2-of-20 on superhoops for the evening) and Hofstra was 1-0 in conference play.
Cassara seemed like he didn't really know what to do when the final buzzer sounded, whether he had forgotten in the last six weeks what is what like to win or whether he was just shocked that final shot didn't go in give the run of luck he's been on this season, or possibly, a combination of both.
Meanwhile, my last vision of Hunter was him pacing outside the Georgia State locker room, weaving in and out of his assistant coaches, with his right arm alternately pointing and waving fairly violently. This went on for a good five minutes or so before he finally disappeared through the door.
On the way back to Connecticut, I passed one of those new-fangled updated in real-time billboards which told me Alabama was well on its way to the football national championship.
Unfortunately, we live in a college athletics world, even below the Red Line, where football is king, and all the other sports are just there as distractions.
But there has to be room for a basketball coach like Hunter, even as the early 21st century morphs into the mid-21st century somewhere.
at HOFSTRA 52, GEORGIA STATE 50
GEORGIA STATE 6-10 (1-2) -- R. Hunter 4-15 4-4 13; D. White 4-11 2-2 11; M. Atkins 4-11 2-2 10; R. Richardson 3-6 0-0 6; J. Vincent 1-1 0-0 2; D. Burguillos 1-2 3-4 5; D. Travers 0-2 1-2 1; M. Crider 1-1 0-0 2; C. Solomon 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-50 12-14 50.
HOFSTRA 4-10 (1-0) -- T. Buie 4-12 2-2 12; S. Mejia 7-12 0-1 17; D. Imes 1-4 0-0 3; J. Allen 4-6 0-2 8; S. Nwaukoni 3-8 1-2 7; M. Kone 2-2 1-1 5; M. Grogan 0-2 0-0 0; D. Brown 0-0 0-0 0; D. Payen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-46 4-8 52.
Three-point goals: GSU 2-20 (M. Atkins 0-3; R. Richardson 0-3; D. White 1-5; R. Hunter 1-8; D. Travers 0-1), HOFS 6-18 (S. Mejia 3-7; D. Imes 1-4; M. Grogan 0-1; T. Buie 2-6); Rebounds: GSU 29 (D. Burguillos 6), HOFS 24 (S. Nwaukoni 8); Assists: GSU 6 (M. Atkins 2), HOFS 15 (S. Mejia 4); Total Fouls -- GSU 13, HOFS 14; Fouled Out: GSU-None; HOFS-None.
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