By Kevin Luo
Each year, March Madness is one of the most exciting events in the world of sports. Obviously, there’s a lot of exciting basketball, and everyone likes monitoring the success (or lack of success) of their bracket. However, one of the things that sets March Madness apart from other sporting events is the opportunity to expose some incredible stories as many lesser known teams and players are brought into the spotlight of not only the sports world, but of the entire country.
This year, the tournament darling may not have made it as far as in previous years, but their run was still plenty memorable and generated many new fans for the team: none other than the Georgia State Panthers.
Remember Kevin Ware, the backup point guard for Louisville who suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in sports history? Yes, that Kevin Ware. After a year off from the game to recover from his compound fracture, he made his return to the world of March Madness this year as the starting point guard for the Panthers. Even if you had tried to forget that moment, seeing him back on the court in a big game was a great sight for anyone who saw Ware suffer that gruesome injury.
The biggest storyline for this team was the bond between head coach Ron Hunter and his son, star player R.J. Hunter. There have been some other significant father-son relationships in college basketball. This season, Bryce Alford is being coached by his father at UCLA (and they’ve been quite exciting). Last season, Doug McDermott was coached by his dad at Creighton. This father-son college basketball relationship just had a different feel to it as an outside observer.
There’s just so much passion in both of these men, and you can feel it when you watch Georgia State play and when you see their press conferences. The first sight of this was after Georgia State clinched their berth into the NCAA Tournament. After they won the Sun Belt Tournament, Coach Hunter was so excited, he tore his ACL while celebrating. He rolled around the sideline on a chair scooter during their games this past week.
That’s when the end of the Baylor game happened. Baylor was up two with the clock winding down when R.J. got a pass at the top of the key and launched a three. Nothing but net. The shot sent shockwaves around the sports world and caused coach Hunter to fall out of his chair on the sideline. After the game, R.J. told his sister he was going to be on “One Shining Moment,” the yearly March Madness montage. I think “One Shining Moment” this year could just be that play on a three-minute loop.
Even as Georgia State got eliminated from the tournament, we saw more from the father and son that made the country smile. First, there was the huge hug between them as R.J. exited the game for what is believed to be the last time (he has one more year of eligibility but is expected to be a first round pick if he enters the draft). Then, there was the final press conference where Coach Hunter broke down when talking about his love for his son.
So although the clock struck midnight early for this Cinderella, that didn’t stop Georgia State from having one of the most memorable runs of any team in recent March Madness history. They had their “One Shining Moment,” but this won’t be the last we’ve heard of them.