KJ Hunt Going Pro, Departs DU

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.

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

7 thoughts on “KJ Hunt Going Pro, Departs DU”

  1. These departures are not surprising to me.

    Hunt is obviously the most talented of the bunch and it would have been cool to see him stick for another year in Denver, but he’s already played at three other schools and had to sit out a year due the old transfer rules back in 2019. After five years on different campuses now, I’m sure he’s sick and tired of the academic grind and is ready to try his hand at pro ball. There will be a spot for him somewhere…I hope he gets his bachelor’s degree from DU, as it’s a far better degree than graduating from McNeese State or Morehead State.

    As for the others, I had high hopes for all three, but their basketball careers have all likely turned out to be more frustrating than glory-filled. Moore and Green were both 3-star recruits and could not hold a starting position at DU, a program that was at the bottom of D-I coming into last year. Gatlin had a bit more juice to squeeze with more minutes, but honestly, I doubt any other D-I schools are going to spend scholarship money to extend the careers of Green, Gatlin or Moore. If they could not be starters/major contributors at DU, they probably aren’t going to be starters or major contributors elsewhere in D-I. They can probably be D-II starters somewhere if they wish, but if I were them, I would focus on getting their bachelors’ degrees if they don’t have them already…

    Thanks to all for playing hard, and being Pioneers in a tough era of Pioneer basketball.

  2. Dunker here I did make a comment above at least next season if the three freshman and Johnson return, we at least have 40 points scored so returning as opposed to her this past seasonWhen we returned six or so points

  3. Would have loved to see KJ stick around another year and remain a part of this rebuild. He would have been an important piece and certainly a cornerstone player in terms of leadership. Still, an opportunity to play professionally is terrific.

    Good luck KJ!

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