LYNCHBURG - Colton Hunt could make history Thursday night by being named ODAC Player of the Year. No other Randolph College player has done so. The awards banquet begins at 6 p.m. in Salem - the site of the ODAC Tournament.
Head coach Clay Nunley said, "I don't think we're allowed to vote for our own player so I guess that answers that question but I've said it before. We got a lot of good players in our league but I'm not trading him. He's pretty good."
Hunt said, "It would certainly be an honor. Something I would be proud of but I can't say that I would necessarily invest a lot in it because I think those things can be fickle at times. I think team accomplishments are a little more important."
Since he stepped on campus Hunt has embraced that idea. "I've never seen someone work as hard as he does off the court, on the court no matter what situation it is - winning or losing. He's always there pushing himself to be the best that he can be and really his ability to hold everyone else accountable to be the very best they can be at all times," his teammate Evan Horn said before a practice earlier this week.
Nunley agreed, "Colton works. There's no question about it. He invests. Even this year if you were to come watch a practice. We're four months into the season. It's a long year. It's a grind and yet if you were to come watch us practice or if you were here 30-45 minutes before practice, chances are pretty good you'd seen him on the gun getting some shots before practice. That's just how he is."
Hunt is also a standout in the classroom. As An economics major with a 3.94 G.P.A., he was recently named Division III All-American of the Year. The award is given to one player at the Division III level on both the men's and women's sides, and is selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Hunt earned the award over some 7,400 total players nationally that represent 410 Division III men's basketball teams.
Four years ago though, there was a chance he would even attend Randolph. "I was originally planning to go to Harvard for academics and to probably play basketball there but when it came down to the crunch time I didn't get accepted for whatever reason that was, I'm not sure and I had to reevaluate all my options at that point and I said I really want to play basketball."
Some said that wasn't even his best sport. As one of four kids from a family in Whittier, NC, he also had a chance to play football at Georgia Tech but chose to play basketball instead. "That [my football career was over] really didn't set in until a year or so after I got into college and realized that football was done for me and that was something that I kind of got some home sickness, kind of got a little worked up about after my first year but ultimately I think I made the right decision. It's definitely an easier game on you physically and I think it's better for me in the long run," Hunt said.
It's certainly been better for the Wildcats program. Hunt is the school's all-time leading scorer. This season he's averaging 24.8 points a game while leading Randolph the number four seed in the conference tournament. They'll face Lynchburg Friday at 3 p.m. "We're certainly well aware that every night he's going to be a focal point of the other team and so as coaches we have to do our job to help him and to help our team to find ways for us to be successful. Part of what makes him really good is I think he's tough to guard and when he's the focal point, he still finds ways to be effective whether that means setting up things for teammates or making plays for himself," Nunley said.
With just three more wins the Wildcats would win the ODAC Tournament and although Hunt says it wouldn't be a failure if they didn't win it, it would be disappointing since it is his senior season. "I think the senior class has to do our best to embrace that mindset that it is win or go home. This is our last chance and I think we have to hold other guys accountable during practice, during preparation, even all the way up until game time. If you're not making each other better you're not working to really improve collectively and I think you're wasting time in a sense and that's something that I've always tried to take pride in is making my team the best team that it can be."
Hunt has received plenty of praise from opposing coaches as well. Lynchburg's Hilliary Scott said, "Colton's a really, really good player - one of the best players that's come through here in a long time."
Hunt wants to play basketball overseas following graduation but if that doesn't work out - "I'd like to pursue a masters degree in business, take a CPA exam, and then maybe go to law school after that."