Hunter repeats as Sun Belt player of the year

Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter repeated as the Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball player of the year on Tuesday. He is the fourth player in conference history to receive the award in consecutive years.

Hunter was joined on the first team by Ryan Harrow in forming a duo that helped the Panthers defend their conference regular-season title, taking it with a win over Georgia Southern in the regular-season finale. Both players were also named first-team all-conference last year.

Hunter, a junior, was second in the league in scoring with 19.7 points per game and was fourth in assists with 3.8 per game. He is the first Georgia State men’s basketball player to be named player of the year in multiple years. He is also the only three-time all-conference honoree in the team’s history.

“As I get older I know that individual accomplishments are more temporary than long-term accomplishments, but to be back-to-back, with how everything went this year, I didn’t think I’d be in position to get it,” he said. “It’s been awesome.”

Harrow, a senior from Marietta, led the league in scoring with 20.2 points per game. He was second in the conference in assists with 4.0 per game. Harrow is the fourth player in program history to receive multiple first-team all-conference honors.

“I appreciate the recognition but it’s second to us winning the conference again and going into the tournament and winning the conference,” he said.

Coach Ron Hunter. who is also R.J.’s father, said he was proud of both players.

“I’m not big on individual awards but that’s a great ccomplishment (for R.J.),” fHunter said. “I think I will probably enjoy this a lot more when his career is done at Georgia State than I do now because the focus is what’s next.”

The Panthers are the top seed in the conference tournament and will open in the semifinals at 2 p.m. Saturday in New Orleans.

Georgia Southern’s Jelani Hewitt was named the defensive player of the year, as well as being voted to the first team. Teammate Trent Wiedeman was voted to the third team. The teams are voted on by the league’s coaches and one member of the media for each school. The AJC doesn’t participate in voting for conference awards.

First Team All-Conference

Jelani Hewitt (Georgia Southern, Sr., Guard)

Ryan Harrow (Georgia State, R-Sr., Guard)

R.J. Hunter (Georgia State, Jr., Guard)

Shawn Long (Louisiana-Lafayette, Jr., Forward)

Tylor Ongwae (Louisiana-Monroe, Sr., Forward)

Second Team All-Conference

Frank Eaves (Appalachian State, Jr., Guard)

Anthony Livingston (Arkansas State, So., Forward)

Ken Williams (South Alabama, So., Guard)

Lonnie McClanahan (Texas-Arlington, Sr., Guard)

Emani Gant (Texas State, Jr., Forward)

Third Team All-Sun Belt Conference

Josh Hagins (Arkansas-Little Rock, Jr., Guard)

Trent Wiedeman (Georgia Southern, Sr., Center)

Jay Wright (Louisiana- Lafayette, So., Guard)

Majok Deng (Louisiana-Monroe, Jr., Forward)

Wesley Person (Troy, Fr., Guard)

Player of the Year

R.J. Hunter (Georgia State, Jr., Guard)

Defensive Player of the Year

Jelani Hewitt (Georgia Southern, Sr., Guard)

Freshman of the Year

Wesley Person (Troy, Fr., Guard)

Coach of the Year

Keith Richard (Louisiana-Monroe)