Jimmie "Snap" Hunter knocked down the big 3-point shot to tie the game for the Pacers Thursday night after being down by 16 points to the Heat in the Pro Summer League. Six years ago, he was an undrafted sophomore from Life University. A lot has happened since those six years.
Hunter was highly recruited in high school and chose the University of Memphis as it allowed him to stay in his hometown. He enjoyed a stellar freshman season at Memphis, where he averaged 16.2 points per game. However Hunter didn't know the troubles he'd soon face. Memphis' semester program wouldn't allow him to make up classes in the summer, so he was looking at the possibility of sitting out a year for academic reasons, something he wouldn't even consider.
So Hunter decided to transfer to Life University after he found out he was eligible to play there immediately. Hunter had an even more successful season at Life averaging 22.1 points per game. He hit the winning bucket in the NAIA championship game, making the Running Eagles champions for two consecutive years.
After not hearing his name called in the 2000 NBA draft, the 6-foot-4 guard began a tumultuous journey that took him through the American Basketball Association, Continental Basketball Association, National Basketball Development League, United States Basketball League, Italy and Spain. Hunter even played for the Harlem Globetrotters.
"It was great for me actually, playing the game, and learning about different cultures," said Hunter, explaining his experiences in the minors and overseas. "It was a great experience for me in that I matured a lot. It's really been a blessing."
He's averaged at least 20 points per game the past three seasons in the CBA. This past season, Hunter shined for the Gary Steelheads with a CBA-leading 27.6 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game and 5.4 assists per game. He was a member of the CBA's Eastern Conference All-Stars.
At age 28, Hunter has not become frustrated. Instead he is even more determined about his chances of making the NBA. He knows the summer league comes with no guarantees, but he hopes to make an impression while here.
"Every opportunity you get to try to make an NBA team or play for an NBA organization, you've just got to thank God for it and take it one day at a time," said Hunter. "Regardless of my age, I just want a chance to show that I belong in the NBA."
Hunter played last week with the Indiana Pacers summer league team for the second consecutive year. Last year he played well enough to earn an invitation to training camp. Hunter narrowly missed being picked by the team, as he was released in the final cut before the regular season. The Pacers already had four veteran point guards in Jamaal Tinsley, Anthony Johnson, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Eddie Gill.
"This year, system-wise and with the tempo, we're going to try to play a little faster, and I think Snap fits into what we can possibly do," said Pacers assistant coach Chuck Person. "If we can get him back to the veterans' camp, maybe Snap will stick to it this time. He came very close last year to making it. It was just a situation last year where we had four point guards."
Hunter performed well in the summer league, with his strong drives to the basket averaging more than 13 points per game through the first four games. He displayed his shooting ability, as well, shooting 50 percent from 3-point range. Hunter also proved to be a formidable defender, using his long wingspan to bother his opponents. On Wednesday night, Hunter held New Jersey rookie first-round draft pick Marcus Williams scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting.
With the changes this season in the make-up of the Pacers, Hunter might finally be in the right place at the right time.
"When I was young I set myself a goal and I saw the great players --Dr. J, Isaiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird -- that I wanted to be like them," said Hunter. "And when I get my opportunity, I'm going to shine."
Luciano Fidalgo is a senior at Lake Mary High School. His Institute mentor is reporter Andrew Carter.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times