HE grew up dreaming of following his father’s footsteps at the Geraldton Buccaneers and not only is Liam Hunt doing that, he’s picked up his dance moves too and wants to become a championship winner as well while being in it for the long haul.
Hunt grew up in Geraldton while his father put together one of the great SBL careers going on to play 382 matches with the Buccs averaging 16.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.6 blocks along the journey that included being part of the club’s only championship in 2000.
While in Geraldton, he met his wife Helen and the couple had two sons – Jesse and Liam with Liam always growing up dreaming of one day pulling on a Buccs uniform and hoping to replicate some of the success his father was part of.
After splitting time growing up in Geraldton and San Anselmo, California, Hunt’s basketball journey took him to Drake High School before going on to his college career at High Point University.
After being redshirted in 2013/14, he put together a strong career with the Royals but the whole time in the back of his mind was returning to Geraldton to play with the Buccs and he couldn’t have been happier to have made that happen now in 2018.
The young big man arrived in time to make his debut on April 7 against Willetton and went on to be a significant factor in the Buccs ending the season on top-of-the-table with a 23-3 record heading into a quarter-final match up with the Rockingham Flames starting on the road this Saturday night.
Growing up watching the team play and then keeping an eye on their progress since, Hunt has seen how close the Buccs have been to that elusive second championship since 2000 and would dearly love to help make it happen now.
“I saw Geraldton had a chance and in the 18 years since we last won one, I thought we always had a chance just about every season, but we just haven’t had the right pieces come the end of the year,” Hunt said.
“But what stands out to me about this team is how unselfish it is. We just get along so well too and that’s tough to find the older you get. We have such a great time just hanging out together and it’s not easy finding a team that gets along and gels so well.
“Everyone is so unselfish and accepts their role on the team, which is tough to find when you have so many talented players.
“It would be a real treat to win it this year but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and it’s not going to be given to us. Not a lot of people like us and we like that. We like being hated so we can come out and prove everyone wrong, and hopefully bring one back to Geraldton.”
Hunt might be in his first season at the Buccs, but wherever he has played he has always risen another level come playoff time and he’s excited at the chance to do that over the next five weeks in the SBL.
“I love it, it’s my favourite time of the year and I think it’s the same for everyone. Nobody on this team gets intimidated and we are ready for the playoffs,” he said.
“That’s when it’s all about who will stay tougher and who will pull through to the final line, and run through the finish line and not run to it. That was a big thing we were taught in college, no matter how you are playing you have to run through the finish line.
“This team embraces that and for me personally, playoffs is my favourite time of any season and I love it. I’ll stick to my role and nothing really changes, I’ll just bring even more energy if I can and more enthusiasm.
“But it’s not about doing things different or anyone needing to be a hero, we just need to keep playing the same way but step it up a little bit and eliminate some mistakes. A little bit of health and luck would be nice as well but if we stick to what we know works I think we have a nice little recipe for success.”
Even when back in California, Hunt couldn’t escape his dream of coming back to Geraldton to play with the Buccs and that couldn’t have worked out better for him to end up starting his professional career out of college by doing just that in 2018.
While proud to follow in his father’s footsteps, he’s also mindful he wants to make his own mark and not just be compared to what Dan did.
“It always has been a goal to play here especially when so many people when I was younger put me on a pedestal because of my dad. But it wasn’t until I was about 18 when I created my own journey and I have wanted to build myself into being who I am, and not trying to follow what he did,” Hunt said.
“I don’t want to so much be Dan Hunt’s son, I want to be known as Liam Hunt and it’s been a treasure to start my journey and to do it in this hometown. It has always been a dream to come back to play here obviously and I don’t know what the hell I do but I seem to keep playing and that’s enough.
“Especially last year I went through a couple of injuries at college and really started to think about what a terrific option playing here would be. Luckily I’ve come here to play and then I’ll be able to take a bit of a break.
“It’s really been the best scenario for me and to come home and see my grandmother and my whole family has been a real treat. I’ve been away from them for seven years and that’s been rough, but it’s been an absolute treat to be back and to play for the Buccs where dad is a legend in the SBL.”
A couple of weeks ago the Buccs hosted their 30-year celebrations in the SBL as well and that saw Dan Hunt and a host of other past greats reunite for a game on the Friday night against an invitational team while they all got together for the golf day to have a great time on the Sunday.
For Liam, it was great to see his dad back in his old stomping ground and out on the floor because he doesn’t have a lot of memories of seeing him play.
“It was a treat for everyone to have a celebration like that. He was really happy to be back with his friends and family, and he’s obviously closer with mum’s family than his back in the States but he has had a blast getting back here,” he said.
“He’s been going fishing, hanging out with the guys and he loves watching the Buccs play. I really enjoyed seeing him play in that game too because I was too young to see a lot of his career when he was playing here.
“The only thing I really remember of him playing was seeing him start dancing on the court. I’ve kind of developed that myself in college and everyone loved it so that rubbed off on me. It was a treat for everyone in the program to have him come back here to visit.”
While Hunt has loved the experience of coming back to play with the Buccs, it did have its challenges settling in after the season had started and then to the different game from college to playing in Australia and the SBL.
“It was a challenge coming directly from college prior to this just because of the style of play being different from America to here, but I’ve just tried to find my role right away,” Hunt said.
“Obviously we have about five other scorers who can really light it up any night they want, so my role is more to get the extra dirty points and rebounds, and if I can get some extra points too I’ll take them.
“But my aim is just to win every game so whatever I have to do to help make that happen, I’ll do it. That’s probably the easiest role there is in basketball if you’re willing to accept it and I have as we’ve flourished this year. Hopefully we can continue that through the playoffs.”
As for his overall college experience at Hope International playing with the Royals, Hunt wouldn’t change anything about it but did feel the time was right to move on when he did.
“I think if I had another year there I would have been a little disappointed, I got what I wanted from it. I have no regrets and I enjoyed the college experience, and I will miss the big games and playing in front of the 3 or 4000 people who boo you the whole game,” he said.
“To me that’s fun and I love that because it gets me going. But honestly I feel like I had a great career considering I won some championships, got the MVP of the league and was All-American two years in-a-row.
“That’s a big thing for me for a white guy who can’t jump so it’s nice to get those awards against all those athletes I competed against. I really enjoyed my college career and I loved the school, and keep in touch with people there including the president who I got on really well with. I really cherished that whole experience.”
After getting used to living in a bigger city at college in Fullerton having grown up in smaller regional towns like Geraldton and San Anselmo, it has been a bit of an adjustment coming back to Geraldton too for Hunt but he’s loving it.
“Geraldton’s still pretty similar to what I remember but a lot of the people I knew have moved to Perth and that was probably always going to happen. It’s just different adjusting to different cultures again,” he said.
“This is a town of 35,000 people and San Anselmo is a small town in California, but I was living in Fullerton during my college time and that’s about 200,000 people. I’m not used to everything being five minutes away where in Fullerton from here to my house it would be about a 35-minute drive.
“So I’ve adjusted to that again but it’s being a treasure coming back and there are people who have left that I miss, but it’s great to see who is still here and to play with Mut and Ralphy who have been here for so long has been a treat.”
Hunt has a good head on his shoulders and has his immediate future planned out, which is good news for everyone involved at the Buccaneers.
Having played seven straight years of full on basketball through high school, college and now at the Buccs, Hunt will take a break once this season is over and get ready for the 2019 SBL season.
He will then throw everything into that campaign at the Buccaneers before likely embarking on his European journey.
“My focus immediately will be having about a month’s rest, having a vacation back in the States and then come back here and prepare for next season by playing in the local league over summer,” Hunt said.
“For right now after seven straight years of basketball I’ve gone through a lot of injuries with my shoulders and ankles so I think a bit of a break will be good for me. I’m going to take about four months of just focusing on lifting and doing my own personal training to get back to 100 per cent health.
“Then after that I will come back to another season here in Geraldton and after that possibly go to Europe, somewhere like Germany and try to play all-year round until the day comes where I stop having fun. Right now I’m having so much playing and while that continues, I’ll keep going.”