Wolf Pack’s Dario hunting for consistency
Special to the Nevada Appeal
David Carter said it. And Dario Hunt heard it loud and clear.
“We expect Dario to approach a double-double every night,” said Carter, the Nevada Wolf Pack’s rookie head men’s basketball coach. “He has that ability.”
Carter, whose Wolf Pack (2-4) will host Fresno Pacific Tuesday night (7:05 p.m., 630-AM) at Lawlor Events Center, said those words right before the Pack opened its regular season almost a month ago.
“Yeah, I heard that,” smiled Hunt, who has one double-double (13 rebounds, 10 points against Virginia Commonwealth on Nov. 27) through the Pack’s first six games. “But that’s OK. I had those same expectations. Everybody would like to come out and have a double-double.”
Those expectations, however, might have been a little unfair to the 6-foot-8, 230-pound sophomore.
Hunt, after all, never scored 10 points or pulled down 10 rebounds in any of his 34 games as a freshman a year ago when he averaged 18.8 minutes, 3.6 points and 4.4 rebounds a game.
Still, it was a solid start to a career full of promise. And when you toss in a Western Athletic Conference-leading 67 blocks (a Pack freshman record), you can easily see why Carter dumped those lofty expectations onto his talented sophomore.
“Dario has tremendous ability,” Carter has said repeatedly this season.
Hunt, though, was merely a complementary player a year ago. Those days, however, ended quickly last spring when fellow big men Malik Cooke, Ahyaro Phillips and Richie Phillips all suddenly left the program for various reasons.
Hunt, though, welcomed the challenge.
“It’s been disappointing,” said Hunt of the start to his second Pack season. “But I just have to keep working hard.”
Hunt, who is averaging 4.8 points and 8.0 rebounds (and 2.5 blocks) this year over 23.7 minutes a game, has had a rollercoaster start to the season.
He had more personal fouls (eight) than points (seven) over the Pack’s first three games combined against Montana State, UNLV and Houston. He took just seven total shots (making two) in a combined 55 minutes over those first three games.
“I wasn’t very aggressive on offense,” he said.
That all seemed to come to an end on the road at Virginia Commonwealth and North Carolina. The double-double dynamo that Carter envisioned before the season showed up as Hunt followed up his 10-point, 13-rebound performance at VCU with 12 points and nine rebounds against the Tar Heels two days later on Nov. 29.
“The first few games were pretty rough,” Hunt said. “But I was able to come back and play well. I was just more aggressive (against VCU and North Carolina).”
Hunt, though, then went to Stockton, Calif., on Saturday night and failed to score in 15 frustrating
foul-filled minutes in a 61-58 loss to the Pacific Tigers. He took just one shot in the loss.
The 20-year-old Hunt, however, has taken a mature approach approach to his up-and-down season so far.
“Sometimes you have bad games,” Hunt said. “That happens to everybody. I just have to stay positive and keep doing my job.”
The Pacific game was the fifth time in his 40-game Wolf Pack career that he failed to score a single point. One of his four scoreless games last year, oddly enough, was also against Pacific, giving him zero points in 28 minutes over two games against the Tigers.
It must be noted, though, that scoring the basketball is not really a priority for Hunt, a sub-.500 career free throw shooter.
“It’s my job to do the dirty work,” said Hunt, who gets the bulk of his points off offensive rebounds underneath the basket. “I have to rebound the ball, play defense, pass the ball.”
In other words, the double-doubles are just as likely to come from blocks and rebounds as anything else.
“Dario makes a big difference when he’s on the floor,” Shaw said. “We need a guy to go get those rebounds, pass the ball, play defense inside. You have to have someone like him under the basket, getting those rebounds or it’s not going to be a good night.”
The good nights for Hunt this year on offense have come, not coincidentally, when he shot the ball.
Against Virginia Commonwealth and North Carolina, Hunt shot the ball 21 times and scored 22 points combined. In the Pack’s other four games he shot the ball a combined eight times and scored seven points.
Carter is convinced that there are enough opportunities during a game for Hunt to approach double digits in scoring despite the fact that the offense will always go through starters Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson, Joey Shaw and Brandon Fields and reserve Ray Kraemer before Hunt sees the ball.
“He has to do that (approach 10 points a game),” Carter said. “There’s no reason he can’t chip in 10 points, eight or nine rebounds a game. That will help us a lot.”
Carter admitted he wants Hunt to look for his shot a bit more.
“I definitely like his aggressiveness,” Carter said.