Jesse Hunt’s Australian accent is noticeable, but not as thick as it was a decade ago when his basketball-centric family moved to California.
Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans said his sweet-shooting Aussie forward’s slang has a tendency to peak in certain situations.
If a woman is in earshot, Legans joked, Hunt is suddenly back in the coastal Australian city of Geraldton, where he spent the first 13 years of his life.
“He’s American,” Legans said of Hunt, a dual citizen. “But, hey, that’s his game.”
It’s Hunt’s other game – the one that’s been a steady presence for the up-and-down Eagles – the young coach won’t tease.
The 6-foot-7 senior has been a versatile commodity for EWU (11-17, 9-8), which entertains Portland State (14-14, 9-8) on Saturday at Reese Court.
He leads the Eagles in rebounds (8.5 per game), assists (3.2 per game), 3-point percentage (46 percent) and blocks (21), and is second in scoring (14.5 points per game).
Hunt, who has accounted for 10 double-doubles this season, has established himself as one of the better stretch forwards in the Big Sky Conference.
“He plays the game right,” Legans said. “His brother is a good player, and his dad was a good player … and that bleeds over to his boys.”
His older brother, Liam Hunt, starred at NAIA Hope International and is playing professionally for the Geraldton (Australia) Buccaneers, where his father, Dan Hunt, played professionally for more than a decade.
Dan, a Bay Area native, played at the University of Portland starting in the early 1980s before his professional hoops career took him to Germany and Australia.
When the Hunt family moved to the United States, they relocated to Dan’s hometown near San Francisco, where Jesse and Liam starred at their father’s alma mater, Sir Francis Drake High School.
After the San Francisco Chronicle named Jesse Hunt its North Bay Player of the Year, he started nine games as a true freshman at EWU, where he mostly came off the bench for his two seasons.
Hunt’s junior season had All-Big Sky potential, Legans said. He averaged 14.6 points, 7.8 rebounds in his five games before he was sidelined with a foot injury.
“It was tough when I got hurt, the hardest time in my life,” said Hunt, who appeared in 20 games last season. “But to come back this year and have the year that I’m having has been pretty cool.”
He’s been a pillar for a injury-plagued EWU team that saw forward Mason Peatling miss the nonconference schedule and BYU transfer Steven Beo miss the season with a leg injury.
The Eagles’ top scorer, Jacob Davison, has missed the past three games with an ankle injury and his return is uncertain. Sophomore guard Luka Vulikic has also been out with an injury.
“He does a little bit of everything for our team,” Legans said of Hunt. “He’s had to play the five, point guard, and his leadership has gotten better throughout this season.”
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