Every basketball player’s journey to the NBA is rather unique, and Atlanta Hawk forward De’Andre Hunter’s is no different. The star of the 2019 DI National Championship game did not become that talented player over night.
Hunter’s journey to the NBA began in Pennsylvania, where he earned three varsity letters for Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood. He was able to average an impressive 23.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.5 blocks in his senior season.
Being named the team MVP in both his junior and senior season, he earned more than a few accolades, as he was named Pennsylvania Class AA Player of the Year, First-Team All-State AA and First-Team All-Friends Schools League, and was a finalist for the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year.
Hunter was able to ride that success into his first season in Virginia, where after redshirting the 2016-17 season, he emerged as a key contributer for the Cavaliers the following season. Participating in 33 games, while his 9.2 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per game seems pedestrian, he was able to attain those numbers at a rather efficient rate, shooting 48.8 percent from the field, 38.2 percent from 3-point range, and shooting 75.5 percent from the free throw line.
Thankfully for Virginia, Hunter was able to step up his game in ACC play, where averaging almost 11 points per game off the bench helped him to earn the accolades of ACC Sixth Man of the Year and a spot on the All-Freshman team.
As dominant as Hunter and the Virginia Cavaliers were that season, the one thing that the world will ultimately remember about that season is that UVA became the first one seed to ever get upset in the first round by a 16-seed, as they were clobbered by none other than the University of Maryland-Baltimore County with all of America watching.
While Virginia are probably triggered reading that fact, one important thing to recall is that Hunter did not participate in that game due to a ill-timed wrist injury that kept him out of the entire 2018 NCAA tournament. Would Hunter have been able to close that 20-point gap and help Virginia squeak by? We’ll never be able to fully answer that question, but he certainly would have made a positive impact.
Much like his fellow Cavaliers, Hunter started the 2018-19 with a fire in his belly to make America forget about that embarrassing upset. His sophomore season was no doubt his best in his short college basketball career, as he was able to average 12.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 1.6 apg while shooting more than 50 percent from the field and almost 42 percent from beyond the arc.
His laundry list of accomplishments from that season is too big to post here, but the notable regular season accolades include him being named a consensus third-team All-American, being named to the All-ACC first team and being named the defensive player of the year in perhaps the most talented conference in college basketball.
Hunter was able to help lead the Cavaliers all the way to the national championship in 2019, earning a spot on the All-Tournament team along the way.
His case for a top-5 draft pick was solidified in the National Championship game against Texas Tech, where he burst onto the scene making four out of five threes to score 27 points to go along with nine rebounds. This masterful performance helped Hunter and Cavaliers win that title game.
It’s impossible to properly talk about the 2018-19 college basketball season without mentioning Hunter, which is partially why the Los Angeles Lakers picked him with the No. 4 pick in the draft before he was promptly traded to the New Orleans Pelicans and then the Atlanta Hawks.
In the NBA, DeAndre Hunter has good odds to make the All-Rookie First Team, and as long as he can hit professional three-pointers at an efficient rate, he should have no trouble lasting in the league as a 3-and-D guy with All-Star upside.