first_imgIn addition to the fact that it was spring break and I had finally found some leisure time after a stressful two weeks of midterms, as a sports fan, this past weekend was one of my favorites of 2015 so far. March Madness began on Tuesday and did not disappoint.As a Trojan, I’m proud of the Pac-12 going undefeated in the first round and three  Pac-12 teams reaching the Sweet 16, even if one of those teams is UCLA. Despite some amazing upsets, my bracket is still in really good shape, so I can’t complain.One upset was so touching that I can’t even be disappointed that I had Baylor in my Sweet 16. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that coach Ron Hunter and the Georgia State Panthers captured my heart and became my favorite underdog. After the first round upset over Baylor, I was hoping Georgia State would win the whole tournament. Unfortunately, their run was cut short by Xavier in the Round of 32, but I think the Panthers will be my favorite part of the 2015 tournament.Hunter caught America’s attention when he tore his Achilles tendon while celebrating his team’s win over Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt Conference championship game to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. That 38-36 win was decided by free throws made by Hunter’s son, guard R.J., with 21.6 seconds left in the game.As if anyone needed another reason to root for the Panthers, Kevin Ware, a former Louisville Cardinal who snapped his leg in the Final Four game, en route to Louisville’s 2013 championship win, scored a team-high 18 points in Georgia State’s win over Georgia Southern and earned his return to the tournament.Their conference win was enough to earn them an automatic tournament bid, but it stacked the odds against them as they were a 14-seed scheduled to open the tournament against third-seeded Baylor. The moment I fell in love with the Hunters and Georgia State was R.J.’s 3-point buzzer beater that lifted Georgia State over Baylor and sent his dad to the floor. Ron’s famous fall and the emotional celebration with his son had me in tears, and the interviews that came in the following day were just as touching and funny.Following their loss to Xavier, the Hunters again caused the waterworks as Ron celebrated his team as the head coach of Georgia State and celebrated his son as a proud father. What makes this story even better is that it isn’t a fluke and it didn’t happen by a stroke of luck. R.J. is NBA material who was able to use his March Madness fame to capitalize on his potential and increase his draft stock.According to nbadraft.net, Hunter is the 33rd overall prospect and is ranked at 27 by Draft Express. This isn’t anything new, however, as Kevin Durant tweeted his praise of Hunter last June after Hunter’s excellent performance at LeBron James’ Skills Academy, an exclusive camp held for the top college and high school players.Hunter almost left after his sophomore season, frustrated with his struggling squad. He came back to play for his dad another year and it was certainly a season to remember. R.J. has a difficult decision ahead: to return for his senior season or to declare for the NBA draft.When asked whether his son was coming back, Ron said he’d love to coach him another year, but they’d ultimately have to think it over. It would make a lot of sense for Hunter to declare for the draft, as his exposure will likely never be this high again, especially at a lesser-known school like Georgia State.Whatever they decide, I hope we see a lot more of the Hunters. I hope Ron and the Panthers become familiar faces in the tournament, and I hope that R.J. has a long and successful NBA career.last_img

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