It was hoo roo to Australian rules football, hello basketball. That was the turning point in Jesse Hunt's athletic life. The Drake High and Lakeshow talent made the decision to focus rather than split his sports attention and that, a lot of hard work plus a now healthy back, has him not looking back.
Living in Oz, Hunt was immersed in Australian rules football and basketball early on but hoops emerged and football receded at age 12. "I found myself outside shooting hoops more than practicing football" was how Hunt put it and that was that.
Now a junior, Hunt's sophomore season was waylaid by a balky back. The pain just wouldn't subside and his participation was limited. Hunt thought at times he was ready to go in games but any substantial amount of court time proved otherwise. It was six months of "niggling back pain requiring a bunch of rehab."
With an eye on the next level, Hunt was thinking "being a 6-foot-6 center wasn't going to cut it." So in the off-season, he worked diligently to both strengthen his back and increase his flexibility. The development of a faceup attack-the-basket-off-the-dribble skill was one goal. Another was to lengthen his shooting range. Having an on campus coach at Drake in Doug Donnellan proved to be a major plus because some lunchtimes were spent in the gym with these items as the focus.
Hunt sees "probably my rebounding as my best skill. "I always had that. My Dad [Dan Hunt who played at Drake and whose team won a state championship in 1982, at the University of Portland and then almost 20 seasons abroad, primarily in Australia] and my brother [Liam, who was the Most Valuable Player of the Marin County League last season] were both great rebounders so I pride myself on it."
His skills set expansion has him averaging 17.3 points per game overall thus far.
But the earlier memories are never far.
"I arrived [to Drake and Marin County] in the summer before my freshman year,, Hunt recalled. "I was just a post early on, just staying inside. Getting out and playing on the perimeter has been the biggest change.".
However, even with his recent upgrade there is no basking in the improvement.
"There's definitely always something to improve on. I'm still at it with my perimeter game, I want to be better finishing at the rim and I'm trying to develop new moves." Hunt believe he will be a two or a three at the next level.
Along with this comes a 3.3 overall grade point average.
Here's Lakeshow Coach Joe Fuca: "Jesse played for our program last spring before he went home to Australia in July. He is a born hooper. He is very athletic for 6-foot-6 and he can really shoot. The major college coaches are going to love him this spring as colleges are focused more and more on bigs that can shoot the three, rebound and play great defense. Jesse can do all three of those and colleges are starting to take notice. I look for him to rise up on the notice meters this spring and summer because of how much he is dominating in high school and now that he is healthy."
Donnellan is also effusive in his praise of and admiration for Hunt.
"He's a great kid and somebody you want to be around, 6-foot-6 and long with a great work ethic -- he's the whole package and, at age 16, he could be a sophomore."
"His back was killing him last season but I think it made him mentally tough," Donnellan added. "He was religious in his workouts."
Now he's born again on the basketball court.