Every time he steps on the court, Darren Hunter plays the game he loves with unbridled passion and emotion. Now, he will get to do so at the highest level of Canadian university sport, as the University of Northern British Columbia’s Men’s Basketball program has officially announced the commitment of the talented guard for the 2020-2021 Canada West season.
“I am excited. I love to compete and work hard, and this is the highest level I can play. I don’t like things to be easy. Going out and competing every night is something I have always wanted. I am very excited for it, to show I am good enough to play at this level. Not just to play, but to win.”
The Edmonton native started playing basketball when he was in Grade 7, and says the connection he felt to the sport was immediate.
“Since the first time I picked up a basketball in my first game, I knew I wanted to play this game for as long as I could. From a young age, I knew university would be the next step after high school. Signing with the Timberwolves has granted me another five years to play. I am very excited.”
On the court, Hunter is immediately identifiable as a competitor who doesn’t take one square inch for granted. Offensively, he is consistently looking to attack and find openings, and on the defensive end, he is a tireless worker who forces the opposition to earn anything and everything he gets.
“I am a very energetic player. It’s been said I play with my heart on my sleeve, so you can see what I am feeling when I am playing. I take great pride in my defense, and being able to dominate on both sides of the floor. I can shoot the ball fairly well now, and I hope to be one of the best in Canada West, so expect me to shoot the ball a lot.”
Hunter is a product of the GOOD Hoops program in Edmonton, where he was a teammate of Timberwolves star freshman Fareed Shittu, who earned Canada West All-Rookie status this year. He played under Coach Sunny Sooch for four seasons, who says the guard has the tools and mentality to make an impact at the next level.
“Darren is a high energy player. He brings a great motor and attacking mentality to the team. He is a super coachable and high character kid, and those traits have made him a key player in our elite program for many years. He will be a great addition for years to come.”
It was Sooch who connected Hunter to Timberwolves coach Todd Jordan during the recruiting process. The UNBC bench boss was impressed with his fire for the game, and on-court pedigree, having won the city and Provincial championships with Jasper Place High School.
“Darren has shown that he knows how to win, having played with one of the most dominant high school basketball teams in recent history in Alberta. He is a former provincial champion and played with a strong club team at GOOD Hoops. He is a bit undersized at this level, but Darren plays with a lot of fire and is really athletically impressive. He is an aggressive guard and we are excited to see him bring that edge to our basketball team.”
At a shade over five-foot-eleven, Hunter has been overlooked in his career, despite his on-court abilities. He points to Jordan’s faith in his game as a major reason for deciding to commit to the Timberwolves.
“I am a bit undersized at the guard position, but Coach Jordan has a lot of faith in my ability and a lot of confidence in what I can do. The overall trust I got from him, and the commitment that he wanted me in this program really drove home this decision. I am really excited to be in a program that really supports its players, and where the coaching staff has a connection and friendship with them as well.”
At 18-years-old, Hunter has plenty of time to grow and develop with the TWolves. A proven winner, he understands there will be a significant step up in competition, but aspires to help the UNBC program reach new heights at the U SPORTS level.
“My expectation for Canada West is for it to challenge me and push me to be the best I can be. It’s the best conference in Canada, and I really want to experience that. I want to go out and be challenged every night, but have the opportunity to win games. My hope is to make a deep playoff run, and even potentially make Nationals. That would be an amazing experience. I expect of myself to play at a level that helps our team win, and a level that my teammates and coaches will be happy with.”
An honour roll student throughout his time as JPHS, he is enrolled in commerce at UNBC, in hopes of eventually pursuing law. He will join his new teammates in September for training camp, as he prepares to continue on his journey playing the game he loves.
“I like to compete. Growing up watching the NBA, seeing what they can do with the ball. There is nothing like it. The happiness and the joy. It is pure ecstasy when I am on the court competing.”