PHOTO COURTESY/; JESSE FEITH
LENNOXVILLE,QC–It has already been four years since Gaiters forward and captain Tim Hunter stepped into Mitchell Gymnasium for the first time as a wide-eyed freshman looking to make an impact on what was then a Bishop’s team starting a new rebuilding phase behind first year Head Coach Rod Gilpin.
Fast forward four years later and Hunter finds himself as not only team captain but also the only player remaining on the team from his first year at the school and arguably the only one constant the struggling Gaiters basketball team has had over his stay at the small Quebec university.
The 6’7 small forward’s arrival at the school coincided with the departure of tenured Head Coach Eddie Pomykala, who had been the omnipresent helm of the Gaiters for the past 25 years, and the first year of present Head Coach Rod Gilpin, who had made the switch over from coaching the school’s women’s team that summer.
What was billed as the beginning of the rebuilding phase for the team ended up being a much more complicated and unstable ride for Hunter and the team as a whole.
Since his rookie season, Hunter has been through more teammates than he could have possibly imagined, with a total of fourteen players either quitting, being kicked-off the team or leaving for other reasons beyond his control.
Despite the team’s apparent unraveling around him, hunter has been able to prove himself as a top player in the RSEQ, improving in both his leadership skills and on court productivity year by year amongst the difficult team obstacles surrounding him.
The 2010-11 season was a tough one to say the least for the young Gaiters team as they struggled to play with consistency right from pre-season and would go through a year characterized by more lows than highs on their way to winning a dismal three games out of the 33 played overall, including a confidence shattering 20 game losing streak to start the year.
If there can be one bright spot to focus on from last season for the Gaiters, it would be their late season 82-75 home win against the Laval Rouge & Or, a team that had previously trounced them by 47 points earlier in the season.
The game, considered by all involved to be the highpoint of the season, showed two things: that the Gaiters are, at their core, a capable group when playing together and that Hunter can provide the leadership and production needed for the team to succeed.
The slim forward lead the Gaiters in scoring with 21 points on 7-9 field goal attempts in 33 minutes of floor time.
“I think that game went a long way for giving us a little more confidence, it showed that we can play with anyone if we put our minds to it, which served as a motivational tool over the summer,” he said in an interview.
Hunter will be looked for to do much of the same this year as he did in that game, a role he feels as comfortable as ever in taking over “this will be my third year as team captain and it’s as if comes more naturally every year, especially this year considering I’m the only fourth year player on the team,” said the team captain.
When asked about being the only fourth year on this year’s team and the toll it has taking on him throughout the years to see so many different players come and go, he offers a simple “it’s definitely not what I was expecting but I’ve adjusted to it.”
Hunter also believes that a change in the team was noticeable even before that Laval game.
“The real turning point in the season came at a tournament we played at UQAM during the Christmas break. In every game after that tournament we showed improvement and were much more competitive,” said Hunter
As for the team this year, Hunter claims that you can already tell a difference from last year’s bunch, and that an improved focus already seems clear early on in training camp.
“We know who we are this year, we know what our identity is. Whereas last year it felt at times like we were just a bunch of mixed pieces, this year there seems to be much more stability,” he said after being asked about this year’s team.
It’s often times said in team sports that an athlete’s true colors are shown when things aren’t necessarily going well and not during periods of success. If the Gaiters and Hunter himself as captain, have ever had a time to show their true colors, this season may very well be it.
“After what happened last year I couldn’t possibly be more motivated for this upcoming season, to come out and have a successful year as a team,” said Hunter.
And after the hardship that was last season for the Gaiters basketball team, what would constitute a successful season this year?
Hunter hesitated, then answered “well obviously winning games and making the playoffs and winning some games once we get there as well, those are all goals we have. The important thing for me though, will really be changing the way we were perceived last year and just showing people what we are capable of.”