RJ Hunter is back in Atlanta, but not for the Georgia State Panthers

Former Panther RJ Hunter passes the ball to his teammate during a College Park Skyhawks home game. Photo submitted by College Park Skyhawks

Most people remember RJ Hunter for his famous game-winning shot to upset the No. 3 Baylor Bears in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Hunter holds several records for the program. He eclipsed the school’s all-time scoring mark in just two and a half seasons, finishing his career with 1,819 total points. Out of the top 11 seasons in total threes made, his name appears three times on the list. Hunter also became the first to make a 100 in a season. 

In a single game, he knocked down a school and Sun Belt Conference record, making 12 three-pointers at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The 12 threes were the most by anyone in the NCAA during the 2013-14 season.

He also tries to come back as much as he can. Shortly before signing with the College Park Skyhawks on Feb. 7, he attended the men’s basketball game against South Alabama on Jan. 30 — a 76-73 win for the Panthers. 

“They look good,” Hunter said about the team. “I know a lot of guys from there still. The crowd and atmosphere was good. They have a lot of support for me. I was up there with [Ryan] Harrow. We were up there like a bunch of OGs.”

But he has done plenty more since taking down Baylor. He has traveled the world in the last five years, from being a first-round pick and playing overseas to now playing for the College Park Skyhawks, an affiliate of the Atlanta Hawks. 

Hunter was selected with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. He played for the Celtics for a season before being cut after the season ended.

In 2016, he played for the Chicago Bulls for a short time. Eventually, he became a two-way player for the Houston Rockets before heading to Turkey to play for Turk Telekom B.K., a club in the Turkish League. 

In his best game against Gaziantep, he had 19 points, three assists and five rebounds. He was not in Turkey for a long time, but he found a surprising takeaway from his experience overseas, noting the transition from the U.S. to European basketball.

“How normal life is in places you would not expect,” Hunter said. “I remember the USA and Turkey were in the middle of a beef. My family was texting and calling me, asking if I was okay. I told them, ‘I’m chilling. Everybody else over here ain’t tripping.’ It is an eye-opening [experience] accepting different cultures and trusting yourself.” 

During Hunter’s time in the NBA, he learned something essential about being successful in the business.

“Trust in yourself,” he said. “There are a lot of things coming at you from different angles. A lot of people in your corner for the wrong reasons. A lot of [myself] thinking people are in your corner for the wrong reasons. All of that comes and goes, but I think the trust in yourself is what a lot of the top players do.”

Hunter is back in Atlanta playing for the College Park Skyhawks. This season is the inaugural season for the team. The Skyhawks are currently within one game from sixth place in the playoffs. Hunter discussed patience following his first game as a Skyhawk.

“It is timing more than anything,” Hunter said following the game. “I was a second off on a lot of things. I like what I saw, though. My condition was better than I thought it would be, taking a couple of weeks off. I got good looks, so I will just watch films and adjust.”. 

Hunter has a lot of experience that he can bring to the Skyhawks. From playing in the NBA, previous experience in the G League and overseas, he has knowledge on every level of basketball. Hunter has found a lot of success from playing the G League previously. He wants to continue to be successful with the College Park Skyhawks.

“Honestly, why I came back was because G League has been a great opportunity for me,” Hunter said. “Each year I played in the G League, I found myself [in] a two-way [contract]. I kind of kept my name in it. What I have learned about this business is what works for you, you have to keep going back to it.”

Playing for the Skyhawks is one step closer back to the NBA for Hunter. Current Hawks point guard Brandon Goodwin is living proof of this. After being a member of the Skyhawks, Goodwin signed a multi-year contract with the Hawks to begin his 2020. 

Hunter is open and chasing to get back to where it all started. 

“I always believe in my talent and attack my dream,” Hunter said. “If not, I’m still playing basketball. I get [so] caught up in this job and business that I do not realize what I am doing. I’m playing a game I love for a living. I’m at home. My family is coming to the game to support me. I’m just going to take it one step at a time, believe in myself, and take it from there.” 

Hunter has not forgotten about Georgia State at all. If Georgia State needs to reach him, he is one phone call away. 

“The amount of love I have for Georgia State is out of this world,” he said. “I’m waiting for the invite. If they invite me, I would, of course, come any time.”