Sep 3, 2013, 10:32 AM EDT
One of my favorite parts about mid-major basketball is learning about the diamond in the rough, watching the kid that wasn’t good enough to deserve a high-major scholarship grow into a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.
Whether they are stars that led their team to deep NCAA tournament runs — Stephen Curry, CJ McCollum, Gordon Hayward, Kenneth Faried — or simply athletic marvels that worked harder than anyone else despite playing outside the bright lights of national TV — Paul George, Damian Lillard — doesn’t matter. These are the guys that we get attached to, simply because they actually end up hanging around the collegiate ranks for a few years before heading to the pros.
There isn’t a surefire NBA player in the mid-major ranks this season, but over the weekend, ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman pumped out a solid list of 20 guys that could end up cashing NBA paychecks down the road.
Some of the names you should know — Cleanthony Early helped lead Wichita State to last year’s Final Four, Sim Bhullar is the 7-foot-5 kid from New Mexico State that did this — and others should sound familiar — Allan Chaney began his career at Florida and Jerrelle Benimon spent two seasons at Georgetown — but the bottom-line is that those 20 names are the small school studs to keep an eye on this year.
But I have one more name for you: RJ Hunter, a rising sophomore at Georgia State.
RJ is the son of Ron Hunter, the head coach of the Panthers, which helps explain how the 6-foot-5 wing from Indiana ended up in Atlanta for college.
Hunter averaged 17.0 points and shot 36.5% from three as a freshman, helping the Panthers end their run in the CAA with a 10-win season. He’s tough as well, notching 5.1 rebounds despite carrying just 175 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame. As Georgia State moves on to become a member of the Sun Belt in 2013-2014, there are some things that Hunter can improve on, most notably his consistency. Hunter went for more than 25 points six times last season, including a 38 point outburst against Old Dominion, but also finished the year with six games in single digits.
That consistency will come with time, however. He was just a freshman, after all.
Which is why he’s a player you’ll want to keep an eye on during the upcoming season.
- Tournament darling R.J. Hunter is heading to the NBA 1
- Texas freshman Myles Turner declares for the NBA Draft 2
- The Final Four is set, and it’s going to be insane 20
- No. 7 Michigan State reaches the Final Four for the seventh time under Izzo 15
- Wisconsin vs. Kentucky: The Final Four rematch we deserved to see 7
- No. 2 Arizona, Sean Miller’s quest to reach Final Four once again falls short 8
- Andrew Harrison’s late free throws send No. 1 Kentucky to the Final Four 84
- Andrew Harrison’s late free throws send No. 1 Kentucky to the Final Four (84)
- Kentucky’s John Calipari is the National Coach of the Year, and it’s not close (36)
- Kentucky responds to Daxter Miles Jr.’s pregame comments (30)
- Updated tournament records: Big Ten teams make up half of Final Four (27)
- West Virginia freshman on Kentucky: ‘They’re going to be 36-1′ (20)