Even in down times, Hunt's smile a constant Slow start doesn't faze Loyola senior

December 20, 1992|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

With every reason to be down about this young basketball season, Jerry Hunt is still Mr. Ebullient at Loyola High.

He bubbles with enthusiasm, enjoys joking with his teammates and likes meeting people. Hunt is a handsome teen-ager who seems to have a big smile for everyone.

"Jerry has a lot going for him," said Loyola coach Jerry Savage. "He's very intelligent with a great personality. But right now, he's not getting the most out of his basketball ability."

An All-Catholic League first-team choice after averaging nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds last season, Hunt is nowhere near those figures as a senior. Only in one game -- when he had 14 points and eight rebounds against Wilde Lake -- has he approached last year's norm.

There are reasons for the slow start. One is an ailing knee. Another is the lesser competition the Dons face this year after the city public schools joined the state association. Still another is the team's unselfish nature.

"I'm not sure what the problem with the knee is," said Hunt. "It happened in warm-ups at Oakland Mills. I was jumping and slipping on the floor. It's sore and it hurts my jumping and timing."

Savage said he does not believe the injury is any more serious than an aggravated tendon below the knee, common in basketball as "jumper's knee."

For a slashing, 6-foot-3 forward such as Hunt, the decreased mobility is a major hindrance. He often is posted inside, and jumping ability is a must. And he often guards the opposing team's top offensive threat, another chore that demands quick movements.

Then, there is the matter of no Dunbar, no Lake Clifton, no Walbrook on the schedule this year because the city schools joined the state athletic association.

"The members of the team were really disappointed to see that happen," said Hunt. "We always looked forward to playing those teams because they put so much excitement in the game.

"I know we took a drubbing from Dunbar last year. That wasn't very memorable. But it was a learning experience I'll take any day."

Savage said, "It's good the kids want to play that kind of competition. They play against each other in the summer and they want to test themselves against the best. We're going to miss seeing how we match up against that kind of physical talent."

With all due respect to the smaller schools Loyola is playing, the motivation is not the same as when a team is preparing for nationally reanked teams.

Hunt does not appear overly concerned about his struggles, marked by a scoring average of 6.8 and a rebound average of 4.6.

"As a team, we try not to worry about those things," he said. "Our strength is that we are well-balanced. Anybody on the team is capable of a big game. We look to help each other, like a family.

"Our parents are that close, too. They all sit together and reminisce. Being on a team has brought us together."

Hunt's father, Jerry Sr., is a doctor who played basketball at Loyola College and "likes to remind us he was on the only undefeated team at Poly," said Jerry Jr.

He wanted his son to play football but the cap on junior's other knee slid out of place when he was a sophomore and he began to concentrate on basketball.

With a strong game in the low post, a penchant for playing very hard, and good leaping ability, Hunt probably is destined to play a swing position at a mid-level Division I school.

At the moment, he is leaning toward Drexel where he will concentrate on an accounting degree.

"If the opportunity presents itself in the big time, I'd take it," he said. "But I don't feel I'm going to be playing professional basketball."

He does not possess the long-range shooting prowess to play guard and, at his height, is caught short of the classic size for big-time Division I forwards.

Hunt realizes the shortcomings, but wouldn't trade basketball for anything.

"You can see the difference between us and students who don't play," he said. "One mistake and they panic. Athletes always think of the positive side of the situation. The games teach you how to deal with life."

So, though things aren't going too well on the court at the moment, Hunt is not pushing the panic button. He has too many other things going for him.

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