Hunt aiming to impress NBA personnel
By Marlon W. Morgan
June 2, 2007
ORLANDO -- It wasn't that long ago that Jeremy Hunt was suspended for the Memphis Tigers' 2005-06 season. Hunt's collegiate basketball career was in serious jeopardy, not to mention the idea of earning a shot at playing in the NBA.
Two years later, after a detour by Hunt back to the path of the straight and narrow, the former Craigmont High and Tigers star finds himself participating in the NBA pre-draft workouts in Orlando this week, trying to convince NBA executives that his name is worthy of calling June 28 when the NBA Draft takes place in New York.
''It's just been a blessing,'' Hunt said. ''It's through God. He works in mysterious ways. He brings you down, and then He brings you back up. I'm just glad to be here and having fun. I'm just looking to keep up the work, keep working hard like I've been doing.''
Hunt, listed at 6-5, 210 pounds, spent most of his U of M career playing shooting guard. This week he has been trying to convince NBA scouts he's capable of playing point guard, a position he hasn't played since his freshman year at Memphis.
While struggling with his jumper during scrimmage games, Hunt has adapted well to dishing passes. He's also performed well at crashing the boards and playing solid defense.
''I feel like I'm doing a great job of playing point guard out there and running my ball club,'' Hunt said. ''I haven't shot the ball as well as I've needed to, but I've run the club like a point guard and I've guarded real well. I've done a good job so far.
''It's just something I've got to get back used to. I feel comfortable out there. Surrounded by so many players that are good makes it a lot easier. It's definitely hard because they want you to run the certain sets that they want you to run. You've got people watching you and if you make a mistake, you've got to keep your head up.''
Tigers head coach John Calipari and assistant Derek Kellogg made the trip to Orlando to support Hunt. Calipari credits Hunt's determination in turning his life around after a pair of off-campus incidents led to his suspension.
''You just hope that all of the good things that he's tried to do to get himself right pay off,'' Calipari said. ''But it's not a given. But he would have had no chance if he had stayed on the other road. Now it's just: does he play well? He doesn't have to have 30 teams say he's great. One team has to say he's great, and that's all we're hoping for.''
A successful run through the NCAA Tournament by Hunt is what started getting the attention of NBA scouts. After not participating in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, which is also for college players looking to make it to the NBA, Hunt was considered a longshot to be invited to Orlando.
But he quickly accepted an invitation last month and is making the most of his opportunity.
''Even though Jeremy played on a big stage in college, they want to see what he can do against guys that aspire to do the same thing,'' Kellogg said. ''If he can come out here and prove that he can shoot the ball, define his position a little bit more, I think he'll be given a good opportunity. I think there's a lot of NBA general managers that want to see him against the top-level talent.''
There's still some question as to what that position should be. While he has spent the majority of the pre-draft playing the point, Grizzlies director of player personnel Tony Barone, Sr. said Hunt is much more suited to playing shooting guard.
''Jeremy Hunt needs to do what he's capable of doing,'' Barone said. ''I think guys sometimes come to camp and someone's told them, 'You've got be a point guard in this camp. If you're not a point guard, you're not going to make it.' Jeremy Hunt's a great shooter. He should come to this camp and shoot the ball every time he's open and not worry about the other things.
''When guys try to play to something that might not be their strength, they overexpose their weaknesses. He's guarded here, he's done a very good job of guarding. He just hasn't shot the ball yet, and that's what he needs to do.''
In the end, it could be his versatility as a combo guard that, at the least, gets him a free-agent offer should he go undrafted.
Teams are allowed to begin holding their own workouts Tuesday. Hunt said he hasn't had any invitations, but expects to be working out for someone next week.
-- Marlon W. Morgan: 529-2792