Imagine driving over two hours to watch a kid play, only to see him fall with an ankle injury just 10 minutes in the game. It's not a fun experience.
That's precisely what Ohio State head coach Thad Matta and his assistant John Groce appeared to do as they were seen watching 6-9 Othello Hunter play in a tournament at Owens Community College in Toledo Friday evening. It's also what happened to Bucknuts.com, who was covering the game.
The Hillsborough Community College sophomore center/power forward, who is committed to play for the Buckeyes next season, suffered a mild ankle sprain when he went down hard with a little over 6:00 to play in the first half of Hillsborough's game against Gloucester College on Friday.
He was unable to return.
"I've been getting pretty banged up, but I think it will be all right," a frustrated Hunter said late in the second half of his injury, standing on crutches and angrily watching his team play without him.
The injury is the third to happen in a span of a few months. After nearly breaking his hand this summer, and then recently playing with back problems, the ankle injury was the last thing he wanted.
However, the injury is not serious and Hunter says the other injuries have only slowed his progress, but they have not stopped him.
Friday night was the second game of the season for Hillsborough, who beat MacGill AFB 101-67. It was also the first chance for Hunter, who had 27 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks in the first game of the year, to play in front of his future coaches during the season.
Technically, the first game against MacGill will count in the standings, but the 27 points will not, as the statistics are not counted against unsanctioned teams.
Before he fell to the floor late in the first half, Hunter had six points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field, three blocks and a pair of rebounds.
He clearly wanted to make a bigger and longer impression with the coaches being in attendance.
"I didn't want to watch the game, I wanted to just play," Hunter noted. "I knew they were watching but it's no fun sitting out."
In addition to playing in front of the coaches, he was excited to come to Ohio, if even for two days.
"I was kind of excited to be here," Hunter said, "I was waiting and I just kept saying, ‘man, I can't wait to go up to Ohio to play'."
Hunter will transform from just a commitment to a full-fledged member of the Ohio State basketball program on Wednesday, the first day of the early national signing period for NCAA basketball institutions. Although the coaches are not permitted to speak of a recruit publicly until they receive a letter of intent, there's little questioning the excitement over the versatile Hunter.
During the late stretch of the second half where Hillsborough was leading by nine points over Gloucester, Hunter talked about his commitment to Ohio State exclusively with Bucknuts.com.
"The visit went real well, the players were cool – especially J.J. (Sullinger)," Hunter said of his trip to Columbus. "Coach Matta is real down to earth, kind of like a kid, a teenager that just loves to talk."
"Right after I left UTEP I just kept thinking I wanted to go to Ohio State," he added.
Hunter was asked along the lines of Matta's personality, if he realized last season he reportedly jogged with the players a few times at 5 or 6 AM workouts for five-mile runs.
A stunned Hunter got a real worried look on his face that reeked of, ‘uh oh.'
"Oh man, um, I didn't know that," he said with a big laugh. "He didn't tell me anything, but if that's what we have to do, that's what we have to do."
Winston-Salem, N.C. was the hometown of Tegba Hunter, who now affectionately goes by Othello. Hunter played for only two seasons, his last two at Reynolds High School, before moving on to Hillsborough.
The background gave him a great taste of some North Carolina basketball games, which he says he's been to a few.
But he also said that when he made his official visit to Ohio State earlier this fall for a football game, it blew him away.
"I can't really compare it, but they are both real big, they both stand out, but I think Ohio State football team is the real deal there even compared to Carolina," Hunter said.
"The basketball gym, the stadium, how big it was, everything just blew me away," he recalled of the Ohio State campus. "In Ohio, I had seen the gym, and I was like, ‘oh wow, you mean this is where we play at?'"
Also taking visits to UTEP and Colorado, who were both recruiting Hunter and had offered a scholarship, he was ready to end the process despite teams such as South Florida, Oklahoma and USC getting heavily involved.
When it was time to close the deal, Matta met with Hunter and his parents back in Winston-Salem.
"Oh they really liked him," Hunter said. "It went great."
So last month, Hunter committed to Ohio State.
Now he will be heading to Columbus next season to join 7-0 center Greg Oden, the nation's No. 1 basketball player in the country according to Scouthoops.com and just about everyone else that ranks high school basketball players. He will play a little bit at power forward, and also play as the backup center to Oden, forming a pair of dreaded shot-blockers.
Unfortunately, Hunter couldn't finish the game Friday. But don't worry, people will see plenty more of Hunter.
Without a long glimpse of Hunter, it's impossible to make a detailed and thorough scouting report on him. But for the 10 or perhaps 12 minutes I did see him, I'll give my first impressions.
First and foremost, I would more conservatively call Hunter about 6-8, as opposed to the 6-9 found most everywhere. But while I would say he's listed a bit taller than he really is, his wingspan is every bit as impressive as they say.
His arms are long – really long. Just in 10 minutes, he had three blocked shots and he probably altered at least four more. Oden won't be the only player on the floor next year making his presence felt inside.
Defensively, Hunter holds his own well inside, although he wasn't exactly guarding a Paul Davis. I believe he will need to move his feet a little quicker to guard the better power forwards in the Big Ten, but it seems like he's more than capable.
His rebounding is good. He positions himself rather well for rebounds, and he's very aggressive going after them. He also uses two hands to snatch a rebound. His hands are huge, and this helps him in grabbing the basketball.
The best part of Hunter's game is that he's a real smooth athlete who runs the floor very well. On the fast break, it seems like he's still learning to catch the ball on the run, but it will come.
Offensively, Hunter appears more comfortable facing the basket for right now. He's got better range than I gave him credit for.
In the limited time he played, he attempted one three pointer. He missed it, but he looked very comfortable on the shot, and he had a fluid release and nice rotation on it. I've heard that he has actually been shooting 3-pointers from NBA range and making them almost consistently now.
Facing the basket, he does a nice job of using the dribble or pivot to get the best possible shot. He also uses the glass for bank shots effectively, which is nearly a lost art in college basketball.
With his back to the basket, he put the ball on the floor without too much hesitation, but he looked like he wasn't sure what to do on a couple of occasions when he had the ball on the block and his back turned to the basket.
I believe this is just something he will have to work on, and with repetition, he will feel more comfortable. It's clear, however, he's still has not yet developed a large arsenal of shots playing on the block.
It's only 10 minutes, but I could see where he needs improvement and where he doesn't. Believe me though I could definitely see the talent and the potential. He has a mean streak that shows through once in a while, and if he continues that nastiness, look out.
My final analysis from what I saw was that his rebounding, shot blocking, running the floor and shooting range are all plusses. His shooting and one-on-one defense seem to be average for now, while his post moves will need a little work as will his conditioning, as It looked a little bit like he was getting winded.
If what they say is true about him getting better all the time, next year he will be pretty darned good.