September 4, 2014

Hunt to fly with Eagles

Kevin McCarthy

Jesse Hunt knew it. He was ready to say yes and planned to do so that night but the opportunity to answer in the affirmative presented itself earlier than expected and he did so. After his senior season at Drake High, Hunt will be heading north to join the Eastern Washington (EW) basketball program.

photo of Jessie Hunt

The 6-foot-6 Hunt tripped to Cheney, Washington on an official visit over the weekend, carrying with him an Eagle offer first tendered in July. Having been there earlier for the Eastern Washington Elite Camp, he enjoyed some familiarity. “I looked around the campus and the gym and really got a feel for the place.”

Head Coach Jim Hayford escorted Hunt to the gym. “He took me to the spot where he first offered me—near the three-point line on the right side of the court—and asked if I wanted to be an Eagle. I was planning on telling the coaches later at dinner.” But the time was right and Hunt said yes.

“It made for a less stressful dinner,” Hunt recalled. “I was kind of certain about it for a while.”

What also helped is that Assistant Coach Alex Pribble, himself a Drake High graduate and later a coach at Tamalpais High, is someone familiar with the Hunt family.

So why EW?

Besides feeling comfortable with the campus and environment, Hunt offered, “[Head] Coach [Jim] Hayford is a great guy, really nice. He's a players coach who listens to what his players have to say but still has his tough side. It's like [joining] another family.”

Hayford is in his fourth season, having come to Cheney after a very successful run at Whitworth University, one that included competing for national championships just about every season.

The Eagles are members of the Big Sky Conference, which includes Sacramento State so expect the annual game in the state capital to have quite the number of Eastern Washington fans. Plus, Hayford has a series of games already set for the next four years with USF and will be attempting to line one up with Hope International where Liam Hunt, Jesse's brother, will be a redshirt freshman.

As for where he will be positioned on the court, Hunt said, “I think it will be the three and the four. My Dad is 6-foot-8 so I may grow some more.”

This is a remarkable turnaround for someone who suffered a back injury as a sophomore. Not only was Drake the Nor Cal champions this past season, Hunt enjoyed some remarkable efforts in critical games including 38 points, 10 boards and four blocks against Sacred Heart Cathedral and 25 points versus Miramonte. He totaled 16 points and 13 rebounds when Drake fell in the state championship game.

His effort in the recent Nor Cal Clash epitomizes Hunt's play as Frank Burlison tweeted: “Jesse Hunt playing his ass off for 2015s.” This notice despite the newest Eagle finishing with one point.