College basketball is in the air and the Fresno State Bulldogs are ready for the season to get underway. New addition to the team, Joseph Hunter Jr. was named preseason Mountain West freshman of the year.
The Hunter hype will have to be put on a short hold, however, as he recovers from a thumb injury. After the exhibition match against Stanislaus State on Nov. 2, Fresno State Head Coach Justin Hutson confirmed Hunter’s absence was because of his injury.
After the Bulldog’s matchup against University of San Francisco on Nov. 16, Hutson stated that Hunter is expecting surgery on his injured wrist in a few days. He will miss the rest of the season.
Last year, men’s basketball had the luxury of having a player like Orlando Robinson, the 7-foot, 235-pound center previously played professionally for the G League, the NBA’s official minor league basketball organization but signed with Miami Heat on Sunday on a two-way contract Sunday.
After losing Robinson last year, the Dogs’ needed help filling his shoes. That’s where Hunter comes in.
The 6-foot-5-inch shooting guard attended San Joaquin Memorial High School, which is located in Fresno. There, Hunter averaged 31.8 points per game.
During his senior year, Hunter’s team went 23-8 and won the County Metro Athletic Conference.
Hunter is a two-time CIF Champion for the Panthers. He finished his career his senior year with 2,337 points, which was the sixth best in section history and second best in school history behind Jalen Green.
Hunter averaged seven rebounds, seven assists and a steal per game for the Panthers in his last season at SJM. The Panthers finished their last season with a 23-8 overall record.
He broke SJM’s program record for most points in a game and was named the Fresno Bee’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
During his senior year, Hunter’s team went 23-8 and won the County Metro Athletic Conference. During the recruiting process, he was one of the best recruits at his position and was the No. 5 shooting guard in the country.
According to 24/7 Sports, Hunter is the third-highest-ranked recruit in Fresno State’s school history.
An even more surprising aspect is that Hunter ultimately decided to stay local and attend Fresno State when choosing a university to attend despite receiving offers from Nebraska, Washington State, Texas Christian University (TCU), San Diego State, Arkansas and Ole Miss.
When asked about Hunter and his preseason praise, Hutson doubled down.
“He’s very talented, and we’re lucky to have him. Freshmen don’t play much in this conference, so it is kind of a double-edged sword. But this guy is very talented, and if we can keep him healthy, he is going to have a good year,” Hutson said.
Showing confidence in a player so early in his career is a good sign for Hunter. After an underwhelming end to last season for many Bulldog fans, Hunter is looking to create some fresh excitement for the new team.
His goals for this season go beyond just his individual accomplishments.
“I would love for us to be the best defensive team in the conference, [to] win the conference and reach the NCAA tournament,” Hunter said.