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Chris Hunter returns to Mad Ants

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Tipoff: Erie vs. Mad Ants exhibition,

7 p.m. Saturday at Concordia Theological Seminary gymnasium.

Admission: A canned food donation or $5 at the door. No advance ticket sales.

Former scoring leader played for Golden State Warriors last season

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - 10:45 am

Chris Hunter ran the floor with efficiency, dunked with ferocity and interacted with plenty of personality.

If he feels any bitterness about returning to the NBA Development League after a season in “The Show,” he's not showing it.

On the first day of Mad Ants training camp, Hunter looked an awful lot like the player who led the team in scoring two years ago and turned that career catalyst into a season with the Golden State Warriors.

“Some different circumstances happened with me not being able to play in the summer league that hindered any (NBA) deals being made,” Hunter said. “A lot of teams showed interest and a lot of teams said I did some good things last year with Golden State.

“It's just a matter of coming here, working hard and hoping for another opportunity.”

Hunter was among 17 players who opened camp Tuesday at Concordia Theological Seminary. Among the familiar faces are D-League record-setting point guard Walker Russell Jr., former Indiana University guard Rod Wilmont, and rookies Chris Kramer from Purdue and Tory Jackson from Notre Dame.

There seem to be more established veterans in the camp this season than in years past, including recent trade acquisitions Darnell Lazare and Marvin Phillips.

Hunter, however, is the only player in camp with a year's NBA experience.

He knows what it takes to play at the highest level, and he knows what it takes to get the type of notice from NBA scouts that lead to the chance.

“I feel confident I can get back,” Hunter said. “It's always one of those things where you have to be in the right place at the right time and have the right people have openings, things like that. My goal right now is to get in the best shape I can and continue to work and help this team win. If we start winning games, that will mean more exposure for me and the other players.”

Hunter, who is 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, led the Mad Ants in scoring and rebounding two years ago, averaging 19.3 points and 9.4 assists per game. He landed a spot with the Warriors last season, starting nine games and playing in 60. He averaged 4.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game on an average of 13 minutes per game.

Some tendinitis in his knee kept him from playing in the NBA's summer league and caused teams to back away from inviting him to training camp. He is almost 100 percent healthy now, but still needs to get into game condition.

Hunter, who played at the University of Michigan, said he is happy to return to Fort Wayne and to play with Russell, who set the table for his scoring on many occasions two years ago.

“When I heard Walker was back, I was ecstatic,” Hunter said. “We had a great first year together, and we're hoping to win more games this time around.”

This will be second-year Mad Ants coach Joey Meyer's first season with Hunter (and Russell), and he said he was pleased with Hunter's performance on the first day.

“He made a play late in practice that shows he's in a little better shape than I thought,” Meyer said. “We were working on transition and running the floor, and he caught a pass that not many bigs would have made and laid it in. You know he's got talent, it'll just take awhile (to get in full shape.)”

Hunter said the highlight of his NBA stint was playing in the game that gave coach Don Nelson the NBA record for most career wins.

Hunter also enjoyed working with IU legend and former Fort Wayne Fury coach Keith Smart. Smart was an assistant to Nelson and is now the Warriors' head coach.

Hunter's year in the NBA allowed him to realize he has the skills to compete at the highest level.

“I feel confident I could compete against anybody,” Hunter said. “I played against basically all the great big guys in the league and did some good things against them. I'm confident I can work hard and improve and do some of the similar things they do.”