Sunday, February 16, 2003

Hunter's dream depends on dirty work


Ohio senior leads nation in rebounding

By Ryan Ernst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Brandon Hunter is a man of his word.

That's why his Ohio University basketball coach, Tim O'Shea, didn't think twice about his power forward's bold preseason promise.

"I told Coach I was going to lead the country in rebounding at the beginning of the year," Hunter said. "He just said, `OK, B.'"

Not only is the Withrow grad making good on his promise, but he's also closing in on a childhood dream: to play in the NBA.

That dream almost came true a year early, when Hunter declared himself eligible for the NBA draft after averaging 17.3 points and 9.1 rebounds a game as a junior. But with most experts placing Hunter somewhere in the second round, and his chances of making an NBA roster shaky, he returned to Athens.

That's when O'Shea imparted a tidbit of information Hunter has kept with him throughout the season.

"I told him that the nation's leading rebounder almost always makes a team (in the NBA), whereas the leading scorer almost never does," O'Shea said.

If that was the case, Hunter figured he already had the perfect mindset for the NBA.

"I think rebounding is very important, that and blocking shots, things on the defensive side. I don't think scoring is as important," said Hunter, who, incidentally, averages 21.9 points a game.

"Scouts see people who can score all the time. Rebounding is the dirty work."

No one in the country has done nearly as much dirty work as Hunter. Going into this weekend's games, his 13.6 rebounds a game were 1.2 rebounds ahead of his nearest competitor, Xavier's David West.

"I knew he was capable of leading the nation," O'Shea said. "But he's got a big lead, especially this late in the season. He's just had a few monster games (26, 24, 20 rebounds); that's helped a lot. But he's really been focused on it."

Focus. That's Hunter's philosophy when it comes to rebounding.

"Just go get the ball, whatever it takes to get the ball," he said. "Just like anything else, whatever it takes to be successful."

Just go get the ball? Sounds pretty simple, especially with Hunter's 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame.

"He's got a tremendous body and huge hands, and he's tremendously strong," O'Shea said. "He's got the physical presence and the mindset to be a great rebounder."

But the NBA is not the Mid-American Conference. And although Hunter is a dominant physical presence in his league, he's just another NBA body in The League. Hunter, however, says he has it covered.

"I don't think I'm that far behind," he said. "I know I'm strong enough to play with those guys, and I'm only going to continue to get stronger."

E-mail rernst@enquirer.com




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Hunter's dream depends on dirty work

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