Special for GeorgiaStateSports.com
By: Tracy Weissenberg
Before coming to Georgia State, head coach Ron Hunter led IUPUI to 17 successful seasons. George Hill, who played for Hunter, is now one of the rising stars in the NBA.
Hill recently sat down with Tracy Weissenberg following the Indiana Pacers game in Atlanta to talk about what Coach Hunter meant to him and his relationship with Hunter's son and GSU freshman R.J. Hunter.
The IUPUI alum was coached by Ron Hunter from 2004-08.
Current Georgia State Head Coach Ron Hunter made a tremendous impact during his 17-season tenure as head coach of IUPUI. One famous alum of the program is Pacers guard George Hill, who was coached by Hunter during his four-year college career.
Hill, the 26th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, spent his first three seasons with the Spurs before a 2011 trade that sent him to his hometown Pacers. After helping lead the team to the second round of the playoffs last season, Hill has continued his strong campaign as the starting point guard. This season, he joins LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden as the only players averaging 15+ points, 5+ assists and 4+ rebounds, while shooting at least 36 percent from three.
Tracy Weissenberg: What did you learn from Coach Hunter during your time at IUPUI?
George Hill: “Just to be an all-around player. He let me do a lot of things on the ball, off the ball, post up, be a playmaker and things like that. So I felt like he put me in the best position to be the best player I could possibly be, to let the NBA know that I’m an all-around basketball player.”
TW: I’ve seen Coach at practice and during games and he’s very intense and hands-on. How would you describe his coaching style?
GH: “I think he calmed down a whole lot since IUPUI. He’s not the same Ron Hunter that I had. He was so demanding and very animated, even on the sidelines. That’s his nature of coaching, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. He’s a great coach and doing what’s best for him and his team so you have to tip your hat to him.”
TW: You said he calmed down. What do you think led to any changes in approach?
GH: “I think he knows teams he can do that to, that’s actually going to give them a lift, and teams that he can’t do that to, that can break them. I just knew that our team, we excelled off of him being animated, being on us, being tough on us. Well, I know I did. When he was hard on me and demanded me to do a lot more, that’s when I really brought it. I think, for each his own. He knows different players he can do that to and different players he can’t.”
TW: What was the best advice he gave you?
GH: “He always said, be Indiana George, try to be the best player I could possibly be every time I’m on the court and make a name for myself. He let me determine where my legacy is going to be left and the player that I want everybody to remember me as.”
TW: There are some breakout players in the NBA that came from smaller programs. Do you think there is going to be a trend of more players being discovered and a greater national focus on smaller programs?
GH: “I think there’s a lot of players who come from small programs. We have Paul George from Fresno State come from a small program, so I don’t base it off of where you go to school, it’s what you can do when you’re on the court. I think there’s a lot of hidden talent in a mid-major atmosphere and I think a lot of teams need to pay more attention to it.”
TW: Did you get to watch R.J. Hunter (son of Head Coach Ron Hunter) play while you were in Indiana?
GH: “Of course. I went to a couple of his high school games. I knew R.J. since he was a little kid. Kind of like a little brother. So I’m wishing him the best, still try to check in on him here and there. So, hopefully he’ll have a great career.”
TW: He’s had a great start to his freshman season. What do you think about his potential in college, and the pros?
GH: “I think his potential is very high. He needs to get a little stronger and a little bigger. But as far as putting the ball in the basket, he has so much ability and upside--being 6-6, can shoot the ball, can put it on the floor, I think he only can get better.”