May 10, 2013

Hunt signs with HIU

Kevin McCarthy

We watch them run up and down the court, we cheer and jeer the action and yet know next to nothing about the background of each young basketball participant. Like who they are minus basketball and what are they like off the court? Why do they play and play the way they do? How did they get to where they are today? So let's fill in that vacuum, at least with Liam Hunt, whose evolution as a person and player deserves such documentation.

photo of Lim Hunt

The 6-foot-7 forward from Drake High is headed to the OC – Fullerton-based Hope International University (HIU) in particular – on a basketball scholarship.

Why HIU?

“It was the perfect size education-wise [1,700 students] and the basketball program has been very successful,” Hunt explained. “There was nothing not to like.”

HIU is a member of the Golden State Athletic Association which also consists of Arizona Christian University, Biola University, Concordia, San Diego Christian College, The Master's College, Vanguard University and Westmont College.The Royals finished at 26-8 overall, 9-5 in league play. HIU participated in the NAIA Men's Basketball National Championship tournament this season.

Hunt will be playing the three, four and five spots.

But why and how did the 2012-13 Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) Most Valuable Player, based on his 11.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.7 blocks plus intangibles, get to this point?

“I had phenomenal teammates, the best anyone could ask for,” Hunt explained. “We got to a point this season where we were down to seven players due to injuries and illnesses. We relied on our defense.”

Despite the personnel issues, the Pirates finished 26-7 overall and an undefeated 14-0 in the MCAL.

Hunt also was a fixture with the Lakeshow Pump N Run team during spring and summer.

Lakeshow Coach Joe Fuca said of Hunt: “Liam Hunt is a true winner on and off the court. He wins on all the teams he plays on and he is a leader off the court as well. In Liam's two season of playing Lakeshow, he won 95% of his 50 games and was undefeated in league with his high school team. Liam was not the most athletic big man we've had in our program over the years, but he is one of the most toughest and tenacious big men we had in ten years. He is is the type of leader who talks in the huddle during time outs and lifts his teammates up and holds them accountable. Liam is the first one to practice, stays the latest and makes sure everyone in the program is on the same page. Last year when we played in the championship of the Pump N Run Spring tourney in Vegas, he had to cover a 7-foot-6 center in the post. Liam loved the challenge and out- played him the whole game.”

Fuca forecasted Hunt's future: “Liam will be successfull at HIU because he has played high level AAU against the very best. I look forward to seeing him lead his team to the championship. [HIU] Coach Bill Czech really looks forward to having Liam in his line up next year because he is very impressed with Liam's ability to set screens and make great passes out of the post. He has seen Liam play in more than ten games and can't wait for Liam to help his team.”

Hunt offered, “I am blessed to have been in a great couple of programs. Joe Fuca helped me so much. He took a risk on me when I didn't have much of a shot and wasn't very athletic.”

Hunt also had effusive praise for “[Drake Coach] Doug Donellan, all of my teammates, my family here and my family in Australia for letting me go.“

But it wasn't always basketball for Hunt.

“I played two sports in Australia, basketball and Aussie rules football. I was pretty decent at both but had to let one go to move beyond decent and I haven't stopped working since. I don't think I could have gotten a scholarship without coming to America.”

He arrived in Marin County just prior to his junior year.

Hunt continued, “As a newcomer [at Drake], I was overweight, not very confident and very self aware. I also wasn't comfortable talking to people off the court. But now I'm confident on and away from the court. I'm a blue collar guy who did pretty well when I was needed to take over and I'll wave to and talk with people I meet.”

What also really helped his overall transformation was the greetings he received upon his arrival. “I remember how welcoming they all [at Drake] were when I first got here,” Hunt recalled.

His father Dan (“my biggest influence, second to none”) told his son there were three things to do: “play hard, have fun and never quit.” That's quite the Hunt family mantra.

Dan Hunt graduated from Drake High after being a three-year all-Northern California selection. Drake went 65-1 during his upperclassmen seasons, winning the California state championship as a senior in 1982. He played college basketball at Portland, then moved into the professional ranks in Germany and finally Australia, retiring after 17 seasons in Oz.

Asked his most memorable moments on the court, Hunt provided a fascinating trifecta, each in a different way illustrating who he is: “as a junior against Marin Catholic at their place, I had never played in front of a packed house. We came out at halftime down but we started hitting shots and tied the score before winning. It was a phenomenal game with all the crowd cheering. Also as a junior against Redwood, they were on fire but I had 23 points and 20 rebounds and that helped take us to the championship game. In my senior season, we played Bishop O'Dowd and Ivan Rabb, who is one of the best in the country. He's the one guy who just kicked my ass. It was an honor to play against him. He had something like 27 points and 10 rebounds and I had 16 points and eight rebounds. We shook hands and hugged after the game. It's something to tell my kids about one day.”

As for a college major, Hunt isn't settled as yet. He has an interest in teaching. “that would make it easier to find a job out of college,” but he has family in the oil and gas industry, so business is under consideration.

So there you go -- the journey so far of Liam Hunt.