There are just 12 days before the 2018-19 Virginia Men’s Basketball season tips off. We’ve had ACC Media Day, heard that Alabama transfer Braxton Key will be eligible immediately, and broken down the ACC schedule (Part I, Part II). Today, we’re taking a look at one of the most dynamic and exciting players to wear orange and blue in recent UVA history: De’Andre Hunter.
It cannot be understated what an asset to the team Hunter is as a player and person. While his absence due to a wrist injury in no-way caused the loss to UMBC, it certainly exposed how much Virginia could struggle (both offensively and defensively) when the 6-7 guard wasn’t available. He averaged 9.2 points per game for the season, but 10.8 in conference play against better competition. Hunter came off the bench for Coach Bennett and played close to 23 minutes per game.
This season, Hunter will be a starter. He will likely play upwards of 30 minutes per game, and is already considered a fringe lottery pick for the 2019 NBA Draft. Virginia was at their best last season when Hunter operated at the four, and the recent development of Braxton Key receiving his eligibility is particularly outstanding news because of that. With Key able to play the three, Coach Bennett can roll out a lineup that features Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Key, Hunter, and Diakite at the one through five positions.
Let that lineup sink in a bit.
Playing at the four isn’t required for Hunter to shine. Most likely, Hunter will start at the three alongside Jerome, Guy, Diakite, and Jack Salt, and his versatility will allow Coach Bennett to get more creative on offense (something I think we’re all hoping for).
While Hunter was solid all year, his numbers improved once he hit conference play. As mentioned above, he averaged 10.8 points per game in conference play, but he also shot 49.7% from the field. His three point percentage in ACC play? Well that shot to 47.1% (16-for-34). Hunter is able to rebound well (3.5 per game, 4.4 per game in ACC play) and that’s something he can improve upon easily based solely on his physique, physicality, and the hole left by Isaiah Wilkins’s graduation.
Umm, everything? Honestly, Hunter is as well rounded a player as Tony Bennett can ask for. He is the best at creating a shot for himself since Malcolm Brogdon, the most athletic going to the rim since Justin Anderson, and was last year’s Sixth Man of the Year in the ACC. He had a redshirt season, but his ability to pick up the defensive principles needed to see significant playing time as a redshirt first year was impressive nonetheless.
What really stands out, however, is Hunter’s versatility. His numbers are great, of course, and I’ve already gone over those above. More than that, it’s his innate sense of knowing what to do when. He works well off of screens and getting open for a three ball, but he’s also outstanding in a zone at the key (see: Miami or Syracuse) and slashing the lane to take a defender one-on-one. Against Duke, he made several different offensive moves to get open for easy baskets (number in parentheses is time of the play in the clip).
- Pump fake, step inside on Bagley (4:40)
- Jab-step to back up Bagley, makes jumper (27:00)
- Rebounds missed three by getting inside of Bagley for easy layup (28:08)
- Fakes off a double team with a pass look, cuts left and takes Carter Jr. (30:06)
- Breaks down Allen at the top of the three-point line for an easy layup (32:20)
It’s not just against set defenses, either. In Virginia’s win over North Carolina at JPJ, a Jerome missed three led to this:
Hunter chases down the rebound among two opponents, reads the court, and makes the best move possible for an authoritative slam that introduced him to the rest of the ACC.
Defensively, he’s able to match up with the one through four (and depending on the team maybe the five). The quickness in his feet is unbelievable and his wingspan makes everything incredibly difficult. Check out this highlight, that shows how only incredibly fancy footwork from Ty Jerome beats Hunter:
Forget the handle, the footwork here is just incredible. And against one of the country’s top defenders pic.twitter.com/SZ2j2eJQoJ— Damin Altizer (@DaminAltizer) October 16, 2018
Hunter’s assist-to-turnover ratio is an okay 1.16, but he honestly doesn’t have many of either as he’s not looked to as an assist guy for the Hoos. At times his team defense broke down, but that’s nit picky at best.
Has bones that can break? Biggest weakness I can see, to be honest.
Best 2017-18 Game
There are a lot of good options here for Hunter, but his 22 point performance on the road against Miami was huge. The Hoos were coming off of their lone ACC loss of the season—a one point overtime heartbreaker to [redacted]—and were ranked No. 1 for the first time since Ralph Sampson roamed Grounds. Virginia handled that pressure well as they held off the Hurricanes and cruised to a
Best 2017-18 Play
There are a lot of electric plays by Hunter, and one of the added benefits of choosing the Miami game as his best was that his dunk is included there. When thinking of Hunter’s season last year in terms of big plays, there are a couple that come to mind immediately (as in the aforementioned dunks). The BIGGEST, though, has to be the miraculous finish at Louisville, capped off by Hunter’s ridiculous banked-in three at the buzzer.
Outside of that shot, Hunter had a pretty bad game as he went 1-for-6 (1-2 from three) with two turnovers and no assists. All is forgiven when you do this, however:
“I feel bad that he did it but De’Andre (Hunter) said he called bank so then we’ll take it,” Coach Bennett said of the shot after the game.
Hell, that one was so fun, here are the full highlights:
Year: Redshirt Sophomore
2017-18 PPG: 9.2
2017-18 RPG: 3.5