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Ron Hunter’s NCAA Breakdown Hits Home for A New Dad

Ron Hunter’s tearful breakdown following Georgia State’s 75-67 loss to Xavier Saturday is the embodiment of March.

Hunter called this the “best time of [his life]” as a coach, but initially had no words for working with his son, R.J. Hunter, beyond “I love you.” The moment that captured the essence for March for many meant the spirit of May for me — May 28, specifically.

On that date in 2014, my first child, Liam McNeal Kensing, was born. This is his first March Madness, and while he’s more enthralled with pacifiers than point guards, the Georgia State head coach’s words resonated with me in a way they wouldn’t have before, thanks to my son.

“This is a special thing,” Hunter said Saturday of coaching R.J., per ASAPSports.com. “The one thing that I got from this is that you don’t take these things for granted. I don’t know if we’ll ever get a chance to do that again.”

Being a dad is unremarkable in that millions do so every year. Fatherhood is hardly the elite club the Hunters occupy as NCAA Tournament-participating coach and player. And yet, nothing in life is so remarkable at the same time.

Trite or sentimental as it may seem, membership in that club of a few billion is necessary to understand how truly remarkable it is. The importance of that relationship truly sinks in during special moments, but not taking it for granted the rest of the time is a test.

Georgia State and the Hunters endured that midseason slog all basketball teams go through, when the excitement of a new season has worn off but the postseason seems oh-so-distant. Practices become a chore.

The Panthers hit a skid in that stretch, losing 3-of-5 in Sun Belt Conference play to Texas State, UL-Lafayette and Appalachian State. But those are the moments that force a team to become better and rise to the occasion in adversity, as R.J. Hunter described following Georgia State’s Sun Belt Conference championship game win over Georgia Southern.

“Be positive and remind myself that we’ve been here before,” he said was key, per GeorgiaStateSports.com. “Shots weren’t falling, so it was time for me to do different things.”

Without the trying moments — the proverbial 2 a.m. diaper changes — the big moments would not be so emotional.

Seeing Ron Hunter cry at the NCAA Tournament hit me in a way it never would have before, but will forever for the rest of my life.

Liam could play basketball later in life; the attraction to the game is certainly in his blood, from both sides of the family. His mother was a starting high school center and attempted college walk-on-turned-head manager at the Div. I level.

But whether his future is spent unleashing a wicked mid-range jumper on unsuspecting defenders, solving complex mathematical problems or making art, I know that like Ron Hunter, I’ll have pride in my son that can only be described with three simple words — and possibly some tears.

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