The Miles Where Are They Now Player Feature with Jimmie Hunt

Over the years one thing that the Frankfurt Skyliners have never had a shortage of was talented and strong guards. It really didn´t matter how successful the club was in whatever season, there were mostly always good guards on boards, but as is the case always it depends how well the club chemistry is built and how well they can mesh together. After the unforgettable 2006-2007 season where Frankfurt missed the playoffs and had one of their worst seasons ever, there was a lot of assurance going into the next season that the club would find back to old glory since Turk Murat Didin was brought back to save the ship. The club had two strong guards with Skyliner legend Pascal Roller and American Jimmy McKinney who had had a stellar rookie season. The club also had young German Dominik Bahiense De Mello and young Swede Rudy Mbemba, but another scoring combo guard was still missing and over the summer the club signed American Jimmie Hunt who had had two years of professional experience in Slovenia and the season before had caught fire leading the league in scoring and assists and seemed to be a huge steal. Nine months later that scoring genius that had set the Slovenian league on fire was never lit in Frankfurt as the season was a struggle for the jovial American. He not only didn´t get the ample amount of minutes that he would have liked and was used to having in school and Slovenia, but he just couldn´t compete with the minutes race with the other guards on the squad. There might also have been another huge factor why his play was affected, but due to courtesy to the player won´t be mentioned. Through the whole one year experience in Frankfurt Jimmie Hunt always remained 100% professional and was always a guy you could talk to as a journalist and was positive and upbeat. Jimmie Hunt is presented this time in the Miles where are they now player feature.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Jimmie Hunt in Frankfurt in the 2008-2009 season after a game.

Jimmie Hunt was born on September 14, 1982 in Utica, New York and most guys that were born in that time and were professional players are mostly retired, well almost everyone except for his ex teammate from Frankfurt Derrick Allen who is a living basketball dinosaur who might still be playing in his 40´s if he continues to stay healthy and have that drive to go to extremes to stay in shape. Hunt is only two years younger than Allen and turned 37 today and he is still active as he is suiting up with Luxuris Celje (Slovenia-2SKL) this season. He has been a basketball globetrotter all his life and as a professional has played in Slovenia, Germany, Bulgaria, Italy and the Czech Republic.

His zeal for playing in so many countries could be attributed to his youth where he really got around because his dad was in the military and he visited various schools in Massachusetts and Maine. He began to play basketball at age eight and made a name in Maine belonging to the best players in the state and scored more than 1000 points for his school. He then made the next jump to play at Franklin Pierce(NCAA2) and played 101 games in his four year career there and scored in double figures in his last three seasons. Especially in his junior and senior years, he belonged to the top players in the NCAA 2 as he averaged 18.7ppg, 5.4rpg, 2.1apg and 17.6ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.5apg. It is not everyday that you find another fellow Franklin Pierce player balling in Europe, but a few years back I covered irish player Paul Dick who remembered the name Jimmie Hunt. “My freshman year, he was injured and came back to practice at the facilities. We shot around together, but didn´t really chat much. I heard only good things about him. Everyone spoke highly of him. He was a genuine guy”, expressed Paul Dick. Before making the trek to Europe in 2005, he got a special experience touring around with the Harlem Globetrotters for a year to Europe and Canada. He played his rookie season with Kemoplast Alpos Sentjur (Slovenia-1A) averaging 11.6ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.9apg, 1.0spg, 2FGP: 57.1%, 3PT: 31.9%, FT: 78.8%, and couldn´t finish the season as he broke his finger. He came back even stronger in his second season with Kemoplast Alpos Sentjur (Slovenia-1A) averaging 18.4ppg, 3.1rpg, 4,6apg, 1.6spg, 2FGP: 55,9%, 3FGP: 38,9%, FT: 80,0%. In only his second professional season the American belonged to the best players in the league winning the scoring crown and also dished out the most assists.

A great season like that got the interest of many teams not only the Fraport Skyliners who then were named the Deutsche Bank Skyliners, but also Snaidero Udine (Italy-Serie A) where he worked out at the “Snaidero Draft” free agent camp. It was a long summer, but his heart brought him to Germany where he signed a three year contract with the Deutsche Bank Skyliners which was a big thing in those days as giving those long term deals wasn´t a typical thing. The Frankfurt club was very high on the abilities of the American especially then sport director Kamil Novak who had seen him play in Slovenia and was extremely touched by his physicality. The 2007-2008 season would be a very successful season for the Deutsche Bank Skyliners as they reached the semi-finals and were a lay up away from reaching the final had Pascal Roller made that last shot over the Telekom Baskets Bonn. Instead the season ended on a sad note despite the team having gotten so far. The team was filled with a lot of talent as Pascal Roller returned from a season in Italy and was the team leader, Derrick Allen belonged to the best forwards in the league and other guys like Koko Archibing and Illian Evtimov had solid seasons. But what had happened to the star Jimmie Hunt that had been born in Slovenia with amazing second professional season? Unfortunately not much. He had come to Frankfurt with some expectations on his shoulders, but just couldn´t live up to what he produced on stats in Slovenia. He played 43 games in the BBL averaging 2.8ppg, 1.1rpg, 1.1apg; and in the ULEB Cup played 10 games averaging 4.8ppg, 1.1rpg, 2.4apg. He had his moments that season and got his chances, but just couldn´t produce consistently. Obviously he had a real dog fight with the guard competition and then there was also head coach Murat Didin who was known as not being the easiest guy to get a long with and that there may have been some sort of rift between the two. However in my last interview with Jimmie Hunt in 2012, he painted a different picture. “ No I wasn´t intimidated. We had a normal decent coach-player relationship”, stressed Jimmie Hunt. Even if Didin may have looked like the evil coach, his ex teammate Illian Evtimov felt that Hunt got stronger despite the tough times with Didin. “We spent a lot of time together. Coach saw a lot of potential in him that’s why he was on him. It helped Jimmy become mentally tough as we know Coach Didin is not easy. I know he has spent a lot of time in Bulgaria after Germany and I ran into him a number of times. He still looked great and in shape. It’s not every day you see a strong guard like him”, warned Illian Evtimov.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Jimmie Hunt after a game in Frankfurt in the 2008-2009 season

All in all it was a tough season for the American. There was a time when he wasn´t playing due to conditioning problems, but Illian Evtimov also went through a period of this the season after when Didin didn´t see eye to eye with the players fitness. Even if Hunt had his moments, something that will for always stick in the minds of many was the crazy game against Polish team Anwil in the international competition ULEB Cup. Frankfurt had had a tough time winning games already that season so when the club was close to winning a thriller at home on the last possession, it was so much more bitter to experience how they lost. With a few seconds remaining and the game tied at 65-65, Didin called a timeout to call the last play. When the players returned to the floor, there were six Skyliners and not five on the floor and Frankfurt was hit with a technical foul and Anwil nailed the free throws winning the game. After the game a very irritated Didin mentioned that he had wanted Derrick Allen, Illian Evtimov, Pascal Roller, Dominik Bahiense de Mello and Anthony King on the floor. Jimmie Hunt was the sixth man on the court. Even if Didin was as furious as Turks can be when they are told that they are mixed with Mongoloids, he did  try to lesson the blame from the American mentioning that it was a team mistake and that he should have had the situation better under control. At that time the club was in it´s ninth season since coming to life in 1999 and this fiasco at the end was one of the team´s biggest blunders to lose a game in their history. Hunt finished with 7 points and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes in the loss. I talked to many guys that season as well as after and one thing was certain, Jimmie Hunt the player was a very respected guy and very likeable. Even 10 years after they were teammates current BBL legend Derrick Allen remembers Hunt fondly. “Jimmie Hunt was just a really cool and laid back dude. Always in a positive mood, and with the smile on his face. Jimmie was good player for us, it was just unfortunate that he couldn’t really show his abilities that season in Frankfurt. Maybe it had something to do with our depth at the guard positions. And maybe it had something to do with Coach. I’m not sure, but J.Hunt showed flashes of what he could do that season”, stressed Science City Jena forward Derrick Allen. Back in 2012, I interviewed Hunt and even then one could continue to see that one of his biggest traits was still alive and that was his positive energy. Even if he didn´t have the season he wanted to have in Frankfurt, he wasn´t bitter in any way. He also felt his lack of production wasn´t because he couldn´t handle the level of play. “I felt good playing that season. It wasn´t the level. Frankfurt had a very strong team and Pascal Roller had come back and was getting a lot of minutes. Sometimes a player will have a season like that“, added Jimmie Hunt.

Often a player will not be able to handle a huge drop in production and success after being a star in Slovenia to not having that type of season again the next season and be affected mentally which in turn can really turn a guys career in a wrong direction and in some cases end it earlier than wanted. However 10 years later, Hunt is still playing professionally. In between there were three years where he didn´t play as he had to deal with family issues and also had other interest to pursue, but he never gave up on basketball and always returned and always had success finding a new team. Since leaving Frankfurt in 2008, he has played seven seasons and playing season eight now in Slovenia. He played five seasons in Bulgaria a place that became like a second home and experienced life on the court with four teams. He also played two seasons in the Czech Republic. Since leaving the Frankfurt organization he has had some highlights including being named to the allstar teams in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. His most successful season in terms of his play on the court was in the 2014-2015 season where he played with BC Levski Sofia (Bulgaria-NBL) coming midway through the season playing 11 games averaging 10.1ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.1apg, FGP: 58.1%, 3PT: 60.0%, FT: 75.0%; and in the Adriatic League played 6 games averaging 8.0ppg, 1.8rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 54.5%, 3PT: 45.5%, FT: 81.8%. In the NBL league he had his two best games in this 7 year span after leaving Frankfurt within two weeks as he hit Spartak Plevin for 23 points and Beroe for 22 points. His three pointer was on fire as in this two games he shot 11/15 from the parking lot. His best game in the Czech Republic for BK Kolin was against top club Nymburk. Despite losing 98-85, he produced 16 points and can tell his grand children one day he battled against Czech legend Jiri Welsh who once wore the Boston Celtics sweater. In that game he also held his own against future NBA player Chasson Randle. The 37 year old will continue to give his leadership qualities to Luxuris Celje (Slovenia-2SKL). He isn´t even the oldest on the team, but has two other Slovenian big men who are 35 years old as well. He has been playing so long and perhaps not only his love for the game has kept him chugging along for so long, but perhaps also the beauty of Europe. His new home now is Celje, a beautiful small city of 38,000 people and is the third biggest city in Slovenia behind Ljubljana und Maribor. The city lies on the beautiful Savinja river and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Shortly before his 36th birthday, he revealed to me his secret for still playing in his mid thirties. “I still can’t believe I will be 36. But I´m not really sure how long I will play. For now I feel good. I started taking more care of my body around 28. Takes more discipline, and focus. Proper warm up and rehab is needed every time. Eating good food is also a necessity. And also I keep a strict fitness program. Without all these things, I can’t perform at a good level”, warned Jimmie Hunt

It has been more than a decade since I last saw Jimmie Hunt and time really has flown by. I remember interviewing him in my weekly radio show, but unfortunately all my interviews I had prior to 2009 are lost because my old labtop crashed so there is a lot of interesting information that I had gathered about him that are gone. He didn´t have many offensive highlights, but his 11 point game against Braunschweig, six dime effort against Bremerhaven and 3 steal game against BG Goettingen remain with me. He also showed flashes of brilliance scoring 10 points, grabbing 3 assists and dishing out 5 assists on the road at Khimki Moscow and a 9 point game against Azovmash and a 8 point effort against Valencia in ULEB cup play. But some other memories definitely are still there. I also remember the 2008 BBL allstar game in Mannheim. The American had the honor of being one of three finalists for the slam dunk contest. He was respected for his massive athleticism and he could really get up there with his 188cm. Unfortunately he lost to Tuebingen American Ray Nixon, but I´m sure this experience hasn´t left him. Then during the game, I had the pleasure of calling the game with him as he was my analyst and gave a good call in the play by play broadcast. Back then the allstar game was played for two years in the huge SAP arena in Mannheim and I felt like I was in the NBA as we were way up near the ceiling and the players really looked like ants. Now I know what my idol Johnny Most the legendary voice of the Boston Celtics felt like calling over 2000 games from way up high in the Boston Garden. I remember Jimmie as a real nice guy that was always positive. Even if he returned back from a long road trip from Oldenburg at 3.30 in the morning, he still had that golden smile on his face even after getting presented with the most ridiculous questions. He was always friendly to me and always had time for my at times challenging and many questions. Even if his play didn´t stand out on a consistent rate, he definitely had that genuine character that every team searches for, but doesn´t always get on a consistent basis. I can imagine if one were to ask Jimmie Hunt 5 things that he will remember most from his season with Frankfurt then these two will most likely pop up. Getting called Babba by head coach Murat Didin and not a day going by where he didn´t hear the word and of course the amazing inside wheeling and dealing by Derrick Allen who looked like a lost ballerina artist on a basketball court. Who knows how long Hunt will still play, but possibly he secretly has Derrick Allen as a role model and will follow him into his 40´s.

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