Explorer’s Hunt suits up against former team

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La Salle's Garvin Hunt got the chance to play his alma mater on Saturday (Photo: Josh Verlin)

La Salle’s Garvin Hunt got the chance to play his alma mater on Saturday (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Andrew Koob(@AndrewKoob)

It’s been three years since La Salle center Garvin Hunt suited up for the Penn Quakers.

A part of the Quakers’ 2008 recruiting class, Hunt was heavily recruited coming out of the Bahamas, receiving offers from UMass, George Mason and Delaware before ultimately accepting a scholarship from Penn.

In six games during the 2008-2009 season, Hunt played all of nine minutes, scoring one point (against Temple), grabbing one rebound (against UCF) and recording one block (against Monmouth). Following the 2008-2009 season, Hunt quit the team to focus on his schoolwork, ultimately receiving his undergraduate degree in architecture from Penn in May. After the feeling to play collegiate basketball crept up once more, the 6-foot-10, 235 pound center transferred to La Salle.

On Saturday, Hunt got a chance to step on the same court, this time against his former team at Tom Gola Arena with the Quakers visiting La Salle in the Explorers’ second Big 5 matchup of the season.

“It was the first game I asked Coach G about when I decided to come here,” Hunt said following the Explorers’ 74-57 win over Penn. “I asked him when this game was, so I’ve been trying to get ready for this game ever since the summer. I haven’t been getting a lot of time, but we’ve been winning and that’s all that counts. Just do what I have to do in practice, get guys like Steve and Jerrell better and that makes the team better. It was a good experience, it’s good to be a part of the Big 5 again, it was good to play my rival school.”

Prior to Saturday’s game, Hunt had played in seven games this year with only one missed free throw and a rebound on the stat sheet. He finished the game playing five minutes, scoring his first two points of the season that put the Explorers up for good in the first half, while grabbing three rebounds in the process.

After taking three years off to focus on earning his degree, Hunt admits that the feeling to play again was sudden and that he was fortunate to suit up for La Salle.

“It feels like a while for sure, it’s been a long three years off,” Hunt said. “It was kind of a whim decision to come back to it, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to play here. It’s a great group of guys and I think we have a lot to look forward to.”

La Salle coach John Giannini came away impressed with Hunt in the limited action he saw on Saturday, saying that he brings much more to the table than an on-court presence.

“Loved him,” Giannini said. “He had three offensive rebound, put one back, kicked the other two out. Just played his heart out, he’s here because he belongs as a basketball player but, more importantly, because he’s a great kid. We had a lot coming back and the most important thing with anyone we were going to add was going to be chemistry. Someone who could accept the role, compete, be a great person and great teammate, be a hard worker and Garvin’s done all that. It was great to see him play well today, I’m very happy for him.”

Playing against his former team and alma mater was certainly different. It’s common to see a player earn their degree at one university and transfer with a year of eligibility left to another. It’s much rarer to see that player take on his former team.

“I just said ‘I know it’s important to you’,” Giannini said. “To a coach or the rest of the team, every game is the same, but certainly when you play your alma mater, that’s a very unusual thing. And he loves Penn, he chose to stay at Penn and get his degree there. It’s just emotional, I would think, to play against your alma mater and I think it would be for anyone. It’s unusual and he did a nice job.”

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