KJ Hunt played a big part in the Denver men’s basketball turnaround this past season. Hunt announced his intention to turn professional, however, forgoing his extra COVID season. Hunt averaged 15.1 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, along with 103 assists, all team-leading numbers for the Pioneers.
Hunt was not the only Denver basketball player to announce their intention to play elsewhere.
Thank you Pioneer Nation🖤 It’s been a fun year! I’m excited for the future at DU and what’s to come😁
-K5 out✌🏾 pic.twitter.com/qDrEdJDQvN
— kev (@kevhunt11) March 15, 2022
Seniors Tristan Green and Taelyr Gatlin are exploring their extra COVID season of eligibility by entering the basketball transfer portal. Junior Payton Moore also entered the portal after one season with DU. Moore’s playing time declined during the season and Tristan Green served spot duty this past season. Taelyr Gatlin, while likely not a projected starter for next season. played extensive minutes for Denver down the stretch with lock-down defense and timely scoring. Taelyr’s presence on the floor will be missed, especially as a ‘shutdown defender’ against other team’s best offensive player.
There are some reinforcements on the way, however. 6’5″ Justin Mullins, a high-scoring guard out of Oak Park, Illinois (25.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, – Illinois Hoops Prospects All-State First Team) will add much-needed size and scoring to DU’s perimeter. Junior Marco Lukic, a 6’7″ forward from Serbia is transferring from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock to DU. Lukic scored 11.4 points per game and 3.4 rebounds for the Trojans this past season.
Hunt may have played his best game this past season against North Dakota in Grand Forks. Hunt scored 28 points in regulation. His four free throws in overtime sealed the game and Denver won, 81-79. He was a central floor leader for Denver and provided floor leadership for Coach Wilbrun. If there was a flaw to Hunt’s game, it was his team-leading 90 turnovers but he spent over 900 minutes on the floor leading the Crimson & Gold.
The key for the Denver coaching staff is to keep the core, young players together to include Coban Porter, Tevin Smith, Touko Tainamo and Jordan Johnson and continue to build on the additions of transfer Lukic and Justin Mullins. Assuming no other major departures, Denver men’s basketball should continue to improve next season.
Top photo courtesy of University of Denver Athletics