Georgia State students, fans and alumni witnessed history as junior point guard R.J. Hunter became the all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball history Jan. 24 at the Sports Arena.
It came when the Panthers faced off against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, a team that up to that point had given Georgia State issues as of late. Hunter came into matchup with 1,515 points for his Panthers career, tied with Rodney Hamilton.
Hunter missed his first two shots of the game. Halfway through the first half against Louisiana-Lafayette, a shot off the glass banked into the basket for his first pair of points of the game, moving Hunter to the top spot on the Panthers’ scoring chart.
“I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t think about it,” R.J. Hunter said after the game.
It would be a game in which the Panthers defeated Louisiana-Lafayette by a final score of 75-64.
Junior forward T.J. Shipes, who has been Hunter’s Panthers teammate the last three seasons said he’s excited for what’s next for Hunter.
“R.J.’s the man,” Shipes said. “He’s my best friend on the team. I’m really excited for him and his future.”
Earlier in the day the women’s team also faced off against the Ragin’ Cajuns, which saw a 63-56 result in Louisiana-Lafayette’s favor. Sharon Baldwin-Tener, head coach of the women’s basketball team also took some time to acknowledge Hunter’s accomplishment.
“It’s unbelievable. I’m really happy for him,” Baldwin-Tener said. “He’s a great player and a great person. It couldn’t have happened to a better person.”
Even with Hunter only one point shy of breaking Hamilton’s record, he did not try to force any shots early on. Up to the point where Hunter made history, he only attempted three shots with the majority of the scoring being done by teammate Ryan Harrow. Hunter finished with 13 points on his record-breaking afternoon.
Ron Hunter, R.J. Hunter’s father and Panthers men’s basketball head coach said in the postgame press conference that he would celebrate his son’s accomplishment as family.
“I don’t even know how he got [the record-breaking shot], but I’ll be a dad today,” Ron Hunter said that Saturday. “I won’t let anyone take that from us.”
Also on hand to see history was Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb who also had high praise for R.J. Hunter’s ability to serve as an ambassador for the athletics program and the University.
“It’s pretty cool to see him set the new school record,” Cobb said. “He recognized he had the ability to make a positive difference and still be humble.”
Dave Cohen, the Voice of the Panthers, said he knew Hunter would rewrite the Panthers’ record book when he first saw him play in his freshman season in 2012-2013.
“My first thought when he broke Hamilton’s record was that I knew this would happen when he broke the freshman scoring record,” Cohen said.
That came when Hunter scored 527 points to break a record held by Matthew O’Brien who scored 515 points during his freshman campaign in 1989-1990.
Rodney Hamilton on the record
The man’s record Hunter broke, Hamilton, was in attendance at the game.
“I’m delighted,” Hamilton said. “To see a player of his caliber accomplish what he has accomplished is great.”
Hamilton wore Panthers blue and white from 1994 – 1998. His senior campaign of 1998 was also the first year that legendary coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell rose to the helm of Georgia State’s men’s basketball. He is now serving as an assistant coach for the men’s hoops team at Tennessee State.
Hamilton had praise for Hunter’s ability to become the face of Georgia State’s athletics program — a task he says Hunter assumed as a freshman.
“The fact that he was able to take on that responsibility as a freshman and continue to be humble and do the right things throughout his career, it makes it all the more better,” Hamilton said.
He said it was gratifying to be back at the Sports Arena to witness history made.
“It still feels like home,” Hamilton said. “There’s a lot about here that still feels the same but a lot that has changed as well with the growth of the campus.”
Ron Hunter thanked Hamilton for being on hand that Saturday.
“R.J. and I really appreciate it,” Ron Hunter said after the game. “I just wanted to thank Rodney Hamilton. For him to come back to do that was great. It was terrific.”
Comparing Hamilton and Hunter
It took Hamilton four years in order to reach the lofty plateau of scoring 1,515 points. Hunter, a junior, accomplished the feat in less than three seasons with Georgia State.
“The styles of Rodney [Hamilton] and R.J. [Hunter] are very different,” Cohen said after the game. “Hamilton was a quintessential point guard, but he could score. He was also very quick. Hamilton does not have the same three-point range as R.J. is more of a scorer.”
Cohen also compared the two in terms of the teams they played with.
“What’s also remarkable is that R.J. was able to accomplish it with the talent he’s had around him. He’s played with much better talent and on winning teams. Hamilton had to score. He had good talent around him, but he did not play on a winning team until 1998,” Cohen said.
Hamilton’s post-Georgia State career saw him participate in a free agent camp with the Atlanta Hawks in 1998 before embarking on an overseas career.
Many are predicting R.J. Hunter will be a first-round NBA Draft pick if he were to leave Georgia State after this season. Hamilton feels Hunter has what it takes to succeed at the next level.
“With the way the game in the pros is played, if he continues to work hard, he’ll have success in the NBA,” Hamilton said.