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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Jeremy Hunt Says He Is Different Now

Formerly troubled Tiger says he's 'different now'

By Jim Masilak, Memphis Commercial Appeal
September 6, 2006

Still beaming following his recent reinstatement to the University of Memphis men's basketball team, Jeremy Hunt said Tuesday he has "got to be one of the happiest men in Memphis." In his first interview since having his "permanent" dismissal lifted by university president Shirley C. Raines, athletic director R.C. Johnson and Tigers coach John Calipari, Hunt told The Commercial Appeal he has only himself to blame for his troubles but is "different now" and hopes to "make everybody in the city of Memphis proud."

"I'm definitely happy to be back," Hunt said. "I'm just trying to be a leader now, whether it's on the court or off the court, whether I play five minutes or 25 minutes. I'm gonna give it my all and play hard in practice and do what he (Calipari) tells me and we'll go from there. "I know I did this to myself. I knew I couldn't blame anybody. But I'm different now. I've grown up and I can tell the younger guys, 'You don't want to go that way. You don't want to end up like that. You don't want to get in trouble for nothing dumb.'"

A senior guard and former Craigmont High standout, Hunt was kicked off the team last October following a pair of off-the-court incidents, one of which involved an alleged assault of his ex-girlfriend, former Lady Tiger basketball player Tamika Rogers.

Then, following a late-night fight on Beale Street that left the player with a broken hand, Calipari announced that the 6-5, 210-pound Hunt had been "permanently dismissed" from the program.

Hunt was allowed to keep his scholarship.

Reluctant to cut ties with the program and hopeful he might be given another chance, he continued to attend Tiger practices and home games.

He also continued to work out regularly at the Finch Center with director of performance enhancement Richard Hogans.

Hunt said Calipari was contacted by some unnamed schools expressing interest in him following his dismissal, but he chose to remain at the UofM.

"I came and stayed and practiced and went to every game just for the passion, for the love. I didn't want to leave," Hunt said. "I was kicked off the team but I didn't want to have nothing to do with the team. They're my teammates."

As the 2005-06 season progressed, Hunt said he approached Calipari about his future.

"I told Coach (I wanted to come back). I put it in his ear a while back before the season ended," Hunt said. "I didn't want to bother him too much because they had a nice little season going."
Following Hunt's graduation in August with an undergraduate degree in University College/African-American community and sports education, Calipari arranged for the player to meet with Raines and make his case for reinstatement.

"I had to go in and put my pride to the side and talk to her," Hunt said. "I told her I graduated and I wanted to make everybody in the city of Memphis proud of me. I wanted to come back and show everybody I'm a nice young man."

Had the UofM not taken him back, Hunt could have taken advantage of a new NCAA provision allowing student-athletes who have completed their undergraduate requirements with eligibility remaining to transfer and be eligible to play immediately.

"If this wouldn't have worked out, I'm pretty sure I would have had other options," said Hunt, adding that he had not been in direct contact with other schools. "But everything worked out like I planned it."

While Hunt understands there are those who do not support his reinstatement, he believes he has paid a heavy price for his actions.

In addition to missing the '05-06 season -- which ended a game shy of a trip to the Final Four -- Hunt faced charges of assault with bodily harm relating to the alleged incident with Rogers on Jan. 10, 2005. The charges are due to be dropped on Feb. 27 if he continues to meet the requirements of a pre-trial diversion program.

"After a year of watching a team go to the Elite Eight, knowing that's my team, that was real tough," he said. "But I did it to myself and that was my punishment."

Although Hunt said he hasn't paid much attention to the public reaction to his reinstatement, he is anxious about the reception he'll receive the first time he walks back onto the floor at FedExForum.

"I really don't know what it will be but I'm hoping it will be good. If it's bad, I've got to be a man about it," he said. "There's always gonna be people saying negative things. You have to take those negative things and say, 'Well, they don't know you, so of course they're gonna go off what they heard about you.' But I'm not a bad person."

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