You don’t have to tell Rodney Hunter about Teddy Dupay.
Rodney Hunter knows about Teddy Dupay.
It’s because he hears it every day, about how the former Mariner High School basketball star’s all-time scoring mark won’t be broken.
Doesn’t matter that Hunter is 22 points shy of eclipsing 2,000 points over his own career, a feat that less than 100 players in all of Florida have ever accomplished.
Database: Rodney Hunter: Road To 2,000 Points
There’s still Dupay. There’s still his 3,774 points.
Hunter knows it. He laughs. He moves on.
“A lot of people don’t get to see 1,000,” said Hunter, who will try for the mark tonight at Cape Coral High. “And I’m closing in on 2,000. I feel lucky.”
Maybe it’s because Hunter, who sports a 3.87 GPA in the classroom, has a little more in the bank than just a jump shot. He’s headed to the Ivy League, too. In late December, the senior committed to up-and-coming Columbia University.
“I feel my class can keep it going in the right direction,” Hunter said of Columbia, which went 21-13 in 2013-14. “And just the Ivy League school, an Ivy League diploma. It’s better than going to the (Atlantic) Sun or one of those conferences.”
Hunter’s next in line in a family of athletes. His aunt played basketball at Seton Hall University, then overseas. His uncle did the same, going from Longwood College to Europe. He had a cousin who played at the University of North Carolina and the NFL. His father, Rodney Hunter III, was a baseball player.
Hunter, who will have 90-percent of his ride paid for by Columbia, has basketball, too. But if that doesn’t work out, he’ll have his degree as well.
“Going to Columbia will supersede anything he does in basketball,” said Mariner head coach James Harris, whose team is currently 12-3 and ranked third in 5A according to the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches. “I don’t care if he averages two minutes a game over four years at Columbia, he better get that degree. That’s going to be the bigger accomplishment.”
The basketball dream all began with a ball at the age of 5. Born in Norfolk, Va., the senior’s first memories were playing with children four years older than him.
He moved to Florida in the third grade. Five years later, he was playing varsity basketball at Canterbury, along with Logan Schell. He was 6-foot-2 and about 140 pounds but by then a dominant player was in the making.
“Playing against older kids,” Hunter said, “even as an eighth-grader, I had confidence in myself. When I step on the court against anybody, I feel like I can kill them. I’m better than them. Regardless of their ranking, regardless of what grade they’re in, it doesn’t matter. I love competition.”
If you sneak a peek at Harris and his 6-foot-5 and 185 pound frame now, he’s a little stiff. He shoots from his chest. It’s a quick, almost a pogo-stick release.
But he’s sneakily athletic. In the City of Palms Classic, Hunter followed up a missed three with a put-back dunk on the same play. He ran back on the other end, his chest puffed, almost surprised.
It was the right play, though, following up the miss high on the glass. It spoke to his basketball IQ, which has been on display as early as his first year.
As a freshman after transferring to Mariner, Harris said, Hunter took a pivotal charge with seconds left in the regional final. Couldn’t teach that.
As a sophomore down the stretch in 2013, Hunter began torching competition, averaging 28 points per game. He averaged 20 points per game in both his sophomore and junior seasons. He’s increased his output to 23 points per game as a senior, to go along with eight rebounds and three steals a game.
So it’s no secret. He didn’t get to 2,000 points by accident. He has a certain instinct for it, like a doctor gleefully ripping out a tooth. Harris calls him a “natural scorer.”
But success wasn’t always so easily coded, either.
There was Hunter four years ago, immature, aloof, a curious decision-maker. That practice he missed as a sophomore in favor of a haircut for homecoming? Misplaced priorities, yes, but also a matter of being a kid.
Two seasons later, Harris found Hunter in the weight room as if he lived there. He eventually put on 40 pounds. He’s still skinny, but now at least he can hang under the paint. His attitude changed.
The last two seasons, Harris said, has been the difference maker. Those minor attitude gaffes? Immaturity.
Beyond basketball, academics have never been an issue.
Harris even went as far as to call Hunter a “nerd” in the classroom. His teammate, Devin Deems, says he’s developed leadership qualities over the last few seasons, imparting wisdom upon teammates in need of guidance.
Rated a three-star athlete by Florida Hoops, Hunter, who played for Nike Team Florida in the offseason, had offers from the University of Pennsylvania, Morehead State, American University and Boston University.
In the end it was Columbia. It was the degree — and New York City — over everything else.
“I think it’s a tremendous accomplishment and it speaks to the kind of student athlete he is and the kind of student athletes we want here,” Harris said. “Of all the things we’ve dealt with and the minor disciplinary issues, it’s never been about academics. It was him wanting education, even over basketball.”
So how about this?
Dupay was an obsessive scorer, but did he win three District 5A-12 titles in a row?
Hunter’s team did.
“We hadn’t won a district title before he got here,” Harris said. “We won three in a row with him. To make a deep run in the playoffs twice in the last three years, he’s been a major part in that in both of those scenarios.”
Two out of the last three seasons, the Tritons reached the region final, too.
This year, Hunter says, he thinks they have what it takes to go win it, to contend for a state title even. Mariner has nine games remaining on its regular-season schedule.
By then, the comparisons might die down.
Because he’s no Teddy Dupay.
But there’s no need to be. He’s Rodney Hunter.
Inching closer to 2,000 points
• When: Tonight, Mariner at Cape Coral, 7:30
• What: Hunter is 22 points away from 2,000 points