Hunter inspired by VCU’s success
Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 16:04
Back in January, while still under the direction of basketball coach Rod Barnes, the Georgia State Men's basketball team defeated Shaka Smart's Virginia Commonwealth University Rams 76-66.
Three months later, the Rams were the team making a splash in the March Madness tournament.
VCU made it all the way to the Final Four, but fell to Butler, the 2010 and 2011 runner-up.
The Rams battled against Southern Carolina, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas, defeating most of these teams by double-digits.
The biggest surprise to some was when the Rams, who finished fourth in the CAA with a 12-6 conference record, beat the number one seed Kansas Jayhawks.
Before the upset the Rams were the eleventh seed and deemed by most as this year's "Cinderella team," Smart was focused on the mindset of the players.
"Those people [the' doubters] don't matter," Smart told CAA Sports. "The only people that matter are the 14 guys on the court, and they never stopped believing."
The Rams were led by senior Jamie Skeen, who scored 26 points on the Jayhawks to land the Rams in their first Final Four in school history.
After the unprecedented matchup, VCU became only the second CAA team (George Mason in 2006) to play in the Final Four in its 25 years.
The clock struck midnight on VCU when they lost to Butler 70-62, ending their hopes of bringing a national championship to Richmond, but the CAA has gained even more clout as a competitive mid-major conference.
New head men's basketball coach, Ron Hunter, says that knowing Smart, the Rams success motivated him even more to get Georgia State to the same level in the next couple of years.
"I can't wait to get the opportunity to play in the CAA and coach in the CAA," Hunter said on CBS Sports Kings. "I have a vision to get this program to the Sweet 16 and beyond."
With coaches coming and going in the CAA (Pat Skerry took over Towson after they finished 0-18 in the CAA), the fact that Smart chose to stay at VCU says a lot about his faith in his program and the conference's future.
"The bright future that our student-athletes possess makes VCU a very special place for me to be the head basketball coach," Smart said to CAA Sports. "I'm very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for both our program and our university."