Ron Hunter wants to taste the NCAA Tournament again. Since
IUPUI made the big dance in
02-03, the Jaguars have been consistently good, but yet have to
get back in. Coming of a Mid-Con regular season title and
with an impressive crop of incoming players, this could be the
year the Jaguars get over the hump.
Looking ahead, what should we expect to be the strengths and weaknesses of
this year’s team?
RH: This year, we should be deeper and more athletic
than we were a year ago. We bring back four of our five starters
and our backcourt of David Barlow and George Hill gives us a
pair of All-Conference caliber guards. We should be able to
really get up and down the floor and make things happen at both
ends of the court. My only concern going in is that we need to
find someone who can score down low. Angelo (Smith) should be
even better this year and Bill (Van Senus), Drew (Conner) and
(newcomer) Fred (Kounkorgo) should give us more of a frontcourt
CHN: Fans often just see what happens during the games, but
talk about which of your guys deserve more credit for working
hard in practice, in the workout room, and being leaders off the
RH: Our whole team really works hard in the weight
room and makes an effort to improve everyday. David (Barlow) and
George (Hill) have really stepped up their leadership roles in
the past year. Last year, our leadership was a little lacking.
Everyone on our team really looks up to David and Angelo
(Smith), so they both embrace that leadership role.
CHN: Discuss the incoming guys for a bit. Who will make the
really like our newcomers this year, and we think they more than
compensate from the players we lost last year. Three kids we had
in practice this year should be ready to make their impact for
us. Gary Patterson (Butler transfer) is a dynamite point guard
and just does a lot of things right. He is going to be an
absolute stud in our program. Austin Montgomery (Bowling Green
transfer) is a very good offensive player. He can shoot the
three and is very creative with his mid-range game. Andy Hampton
(redshirt freshman) had a rough first year because of injuries,
but he’s going to be a strong players. He’s really athletic and
can finish inside of 15 feet. The more he learns defensively,
the more he’ll contribute.
have a pair of junior college kids and a true freshman that
we’re going to lean pretty heavily on. Fred Kounkorgo is going
to be a great player in our league. He’s 6-foot-6, can jump out
of the gym and is strong around the rim. We’re excited that
we’re going to have him for the next three years. Hamish (Mickouiza)
needs some development, but he could be a rare asset for us. He
runs the floor like a gazelle at 6-foot-10, and he prides
himself on defense. Even though he’s only played organized
basketball for two years, he’s got a lot of upside. Finally,
Billy (Pettiford) should develop into a nice player. He’s a very
skilled player for his size. He’s a great passer and is pretty
athletic. We don’t need him to step in right away, so he’ll have
plenty of time to develop.
CHN: How hard will it be to replace
the outgoing seniors? Who is ready to step up their game
RH: Brandon Cole will
obviously be the hardest to replace. He’s been a rock in our
program and all we’ve done is win since he arrived on campus. We
can make up his 15 points and seven rebounds per game, but just
his clutch play is going to be hard to replace. Replacing a kid
like Maushae Byles is the same way. He loved playing in the big
games. Despite his bad knee, he had huge games in wins at Valpo
and against Oral Roberts last year. That’s the kind of kid he
was. Hopefully, George and David will become the big game
players for us now.
CHN: What other coaches really helped you reach the level of
success you’re at now? How does their advice and teachings
still help you to this day?
RH: A lot of different people have helped me
along the way. My parents really pushed me to be the best and
were supportive in everything that I wanted to do. In the
coaching ranks, I’ve made a lot of friends that act as a support
system. (Former Indiana and current UAB head coach) Mike Davis
is one of my best friends. He and I have been there for each
other for all the bumps in the road. Greg Kampe (Oakland) is
another one of my good friends. He’s been doing this for a long
time and took a similar path, going from (NCAA) Division II to
I. He’s always been a great help to me. Some of the others who
helped me along the way were (former Purdue coach) Gene Keady
and (former Ball State and Houston coach) Ray McCallum.
CHN: What are your realistic goals and
hopes for this season?
RH: We really want to get back to the (NCAA)
Tournament. We haven’t been since 2003. We won a regular season
championship last year, and we really want to build on that. Our
program is on the upswing – we just need to cap it off by
getting to the tournament. 20 wins and a new banner on the wall
at the end of this season will make me really happy.
Thanks for your time Ron.