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In the Hunt: Furman’s Hunter Ready to Lead the Paladins into March

Alex Hunter’s unique combination of personality, leadership, reliability, and shot-making have Furman primed for a March run.

NCAA Basketball: Furman at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

You might overlook Furman’s Alex Hunter. He isn’t a flashy dunker or volume scorer, and he rarely stands out on the scoresheet. But what can’t be quantified is his consistency and ability to make big shots in key moments, especially this year.

If there were a stat for reliability and making the right decisions in clutch situations, there’s no doubt the 5’11 guard from the Research Triangle of North Carolina would top the list. Hunter has the personality of a natural-born leader, which is why he’s been such a vital part of Furman’s success over the past four years. He’s been present for program-defining non-conference wins over Villanova and Loyola University Chicago (twice) and big league wins, such as those against UNC Greensboro, East Tennessee State, and Wofford.

All told, he’s been one of the winningest players in Furman basketball history, alongside senior teammate Clay Mounce. The pair have been involved in 86 Paladin wins. He was also part of the first-ever ranked Furman basketball team in school history, and two teams that won a school-record 25 games in back-to-back seasons. On Wednesday night, at least on paper, Hunter will play his final game before few fans at Timmons Arena.

As with many programs during this unusual season, the Paladins have hit some bumps in the road along the way. Furman, however, is starting to play its best basketball at the right time, thanks in large part to the play of Hunter.

If Hunter has learned anything about this season at large, it’s that nothing can ever be too much of a disappointment, and that just having a season means the world to him and his teammates.

“To be honest, it’s such a blessing just to play,” he said. “I mean, we aren’t guaranteed another game so this season kind has forced everyone to stay in the moment and appreciate our love for the sport even more.”

Hunter is already going to finish his career as one of the great point guards in the history of Furman basketball, and his 344 assists ranks him 11th in program history. Throughout his career at Furman, Hunter has always been prepared for the moment. He was never the wide-eyed freshman point guard that made a lot of mistakes or had to learn from careless turnovers. He just showed up and had an uncanny sense of leadership that you might find in one out of 100 point guards you recruited.

Even on the rare occasion when something did go wrong or Hunter did make a mistake, he never let it bother him and his personality was one that could best be described as both composed and unflappable.

“When you’re locked in to the game and what’s going on, it’s really hard to tell what’s going on around you anyway,” he said. “And even when there was like packed crowds and packed arenas it was easy to block out all that noise because you’re just so zoned in on like the game plan.”

Hunter is having his best offensive season as a Paladin, averaging double-digit points for the first time. He’s also tallied 197-career three-pointers, to rank sixth in school history. In Furman’s 78-64 win vs. Samford, he surpassed the 900-point plateau (currently at 924) for his career and he did so on what turned out to be a career night, as he posted career highs for points (23) and three-pointers made (7).

Hunter admits that asserting himself more as a scorer has been an adjustment, but one he was confident he could make.

“It’s been a different role for me because I have been blessed and fortunate to have such great teammates and great offensive-minded teammates and aggressive teammates,” he said. “But honestly I’ve always believed in myself offensively. I’ve kind of been waiting for my time to take over that more assertive role, and obviously my time in college I’ve been blessed and fortunate to be around so many guys that have been so talented offensively.”

Hunter took a broader view of what Furman’s basketball culture is, the impact it has had on him, and how those will all be factors in his future and in Bob Richey’s basketball program.

“This whole process has been about relationships and that’s something I cherish and I would do anything for these guys,” he said. “I’ve been able to grow as a man under Coach Richey and all my other coaches while I’ve been here. It might not be your night every night, but just do your role as best as you can and excel in that role, because it’s just as important to take a charge, get an assist, or get a steal or a rebound as it is to score baskets.”

How to have a successful program and culture really isn’t a secret, but there is a catch. Your program’s culture must be made of the ingredients conducive to carrying out the challenge of winning championships. Hunter seems to be a key part of that at Furman.