Georgia State Basketball: Ron Hunter Era Set To Open Tonight

Georgia State Sports Arena is ready for an infusion of energy. Photo Courtesy of GSU Sports Communications.

Georgia State basketball opens the doors on the Ron Hunter regime tonight vs. Southern Poly. What can we expect from Hunter and his team this season?

Georgia State basketball has been playing Division 1 level since the 1963-64 season. This is not a new phenomenon downtown. Losing is not either, unfortunately, as the Panthers of the hard court have only registered 11 winning seasons. Enter new head coach Ron Hunter.
Hunter arrived in March and said things that Panther fans had been thinking for nearly a decade:
Georgia State didn’t lose because it had a lack of talent. Georgia State lost because it had a sense of always losing – them making excuses. That’s what’s changed.

Much this offseason has been made of what Georgia State basketball is and what it isn't but Hunter has already changed the basketball culture by creating a new atmosphere. Players changed roommates, the team enters the Sports Arena differently, practice times in the morning instead of the afternoon. As he told us back in April, "I want to change everything."

Gone after graduating Seniors Marques Johnson and Dante Curry. So is Javonte Maynor who was removed from the team for a violation of team rules. Jordan Demercy, who transferred from Florida State and sat out 2010-11, was kicked out of school for violating University policy.

Coach Hunter described his excitement level as the Panthers will open the exhibition season at home vs. Southern Poly at 7pm ET:

I am really looking forward to getting the season underway. After several weeks of practice, our team is excited to be facing an opponent other than ourselves. This game will allow us to see what we have improved upon and what we need to continue to work on leading up to our regular season opening games.

So who will the Panthers rely on?

Projected Starting Five:

PG Sophomore Devonta White - The Atlanta area product from Centennial HS missed 11 games last season after a high ankle sprain limited his very good Freshman season. He averaged 5.2 points and 2.3 assists per game in 2010-11.

SG Senior James Fields - "Boom" returns as one of the most experienced players in Georgia State history with 93 career games played and 30 starts. He is primarily a defensive specialist but is one of the most efficient scorers on the roster averaging 5.5 points on only 4.5 shots per game in 2010-11.

SF RS Senior Jihad Ali - Ali also has tremendous experience with 92 career games and 30 starts. He has looked very sharp in Coach Hunter's up temp style and should see his career averages of 5.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game soar.

PF Senior Brandon McGee - McGee originally signed with Indiana and left after Kelvin Sampson was removed. He has the ability to be great but a motor that runs very hot and cold. When he's on, he the ability to be an All CAA performer.

C Senior Eric Buckner - Buck has the length to be a force but struggles with confidence issues that have limited production in his short Panther career. While physically gifted, he will need to average more than the 9.4 points per game in 2010-11 to put pressure on opposing defenses.

The Bench Mob:

SF Senior Josh Micheaux - Micheaux played very well last year after being inserted into the starting lineup the final 10 games. He plays physical and can guard nearly three positions.

SF Freshman Tony Kimbro - Kimbro has very good size and skill set for a Freshman and will contribute immediately. He could be a candidate for all conference rookie team honors.

C Junior James Vincent - "Oak" has put the work in on his body and may be closer to a birch tree with his 6'9 frame. He is an all effort guy who is effective on the low block and plays very good defensively.

Non Conference Schedule:

Georgia State faces Washington, Florida Atlantic and Portland in the World Vision Classic from Nov. 12-14. The rest of the non conference slate features manageable home games with rival Georgia Southern, Florida International and Liberty.

Conference Schedule:

The coaches and media voted the Panthers 11th out of the 12 team Colonial Athletic Association. Georgia State received a pretty good draw in terms of CAA schedule and will face two out of the first three conference opponents at home. Home and home games with 2011 Final Four participant VCU and CAA favorite Drexel, NCAA Tournament team Old Dominion and George Mason reads like the who's who of mid-major college basketball.

Outlook:

Georgia State fans would be thrilled with a .500 or better record overall and within conference play. It's very likely that this could happen as the team has bought in to Hunter's fun and gun style. How quickly this veteran team gells and learns to win after a disappointing 2010-11 brings hope to Panther Nation.

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