State Now

Sam Hunt, new NC State guard, has always wanted to play in the ACC

NC State lands graduate transfer guard Sam Hunt from NC A&T
NC State lands graduate transfer guard Sam Hunt from NC A&T NC A&T

N.C. State checked off too many boxes for Sam Hunt to continue his college basketball career anywhere else.

Hunt, who grew up in Greensboro, has always wanted to play in the ACC. The 6-2, 175-pound guard also fits into new Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts’ style of play, and Hunt has a good relationship with incoming freshman guard Lavar Batts.

Put it all together and you can understand why Hunt, who graduated from N.C. A&T on Saturday, chose to join the Wolfpack program for his final college season.

“This was one of those things where an opportunity presents itself, and you have to ask yourself, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ ” Hunt said.

Hunt has led the Aggies in scoring the past two seasons. The lefty guard averaged 15.4 points per game as a sophomore in 2015-16 and 12.7 as a junior last season. He had a game-high 20 points in the Aggies’ 68-63 upset win over N.C. Central on March 2.

Hunt, who earned a business economics degree on Saturday, could have returned for his senior season and gotten all the minutes and shots he wanted. But the Aggies only won three games last season and total of 13 in Hunt’s two eligible seasons (he transferred from Jacksonville in 2014 and had to sit out a year).

He could have been complacent, he said Saturday, and returned for another productive individual season but that’s not what he wanted. As a grad transfer, he can play right away at N.C. State in the fall.

“I know what it’s like to carry a lot of the load,” Hunt said. “I’d rather be in a situation where there’s more help, and I have a better chance to win.”

N.C. State suffered its second straight losing season in 2016-17, which got coach Mark Gottfried fired with four games left in the regular season. Keatts, who led UNC-Wilmington to the NCAA tournament the past two years, was hired in March to rebuild the program.

Keatts has already added one graduate transfer, guard Al Freeman from Baylor, and Batts, a top 100 recruit from Concord. Hunt and Batts, while separated by four years, are both products of the CP3 AAU program.

“That’s my little brother,” Hunt said of Batts. “He’s a great kid, and he’s so competitive. That’s what I really love about him, he competes. And he listens. A lot of kids don’t want to listen.”

Hunt will be a newcomer to N.C. State, but he brings some experience and leadership qualities. He also adds insurance if the NCAA doesn’t grant guard Terry Henderson a sixth-year waiver.

Henderson played only 7 minutes during the 2015-16 season, after being sidelined with an ankle injury, and is hoping the NCAA will grant him an extra season of eligibility. With only four other scholarship guards on the roster, there’s room for Hunt regardless of Henderson’s future.

Hunt has a “more the merrier” view of Henderson’s case.

“I hope he gets his sixth year,” Hunt said. “Given what happened with him, that would only be fair.”

Pacific and East Carolina were the other two options for Hunt, who made 35.4 percent of his 3s (74-of-209) last season and 33.8 percent (66-of-195) as a sophomore.

Hunt was familiar with Keatts’ up-tempo system and was actually recruited by N.C. State assistant Takayo Siddle out of Greensboro Dudley.

None of the in-state ACC schools showed Hunt much interest out of high school. After two standout seasons at A&T, he finally got N.C. State’s attention.

“I love A&T, from the athletic director to the coaching staff, but the ACC has always been a dream,” Hunt said. “This is my chance to prove that not only I can play at the highest level, but I can be effective and help (N.C. State) win games.”

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio