Dec. 11, 2014
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2014-15 issue of Buzz Magazine.
By Adam Van Brimmer
– Marcus Georges-Hunt can feel the eyes upon him, can sense that his every mannerism, his every action and reaction, is being observed by those who consider him an influence.
Georgia Tech’s basketball star appreciates the scrutiny.
Georges-Hunt is the anti-Charles. As in Charles Barkley. Georges-Hunt relishes the role model status Barkley, the NBA great, once shunned. Be it at his childhood home with his two teenage brothers, at his girlfriend’s home with his 1-year-old son, or at Georgia Tech’s home, the Zelnak Basketball Center, with his bevy of teammates, Georges-Hunt knows his example is one that will be followed. And he accepts that responsibility.
“I always try to do the right thing because there is always somebody watching me and looking up to me,” Georges-Hunt says. “I like showing how to do things and answering questions. They ask because they really want to know and be prepared.”
Georges-Hunt is also the center of Yellow Jackets’ fans attention these days. He has entered his third season as Georgia Tech’s returning leading scorer and is one of only four players with significant experience in coach Brian Gregory’s system. Six newcomers — three transfers eligible to play immediately and three true freshmen — are contributing this season, as are sophomore Travis Jorgenson, who played in just four games last year before suffering a knee injury, and senior Robert Sampson, who sat out the 2013-2014 season under NCAA transfer eligibility rules.
The refreshed roster makes the Jackets more green than yellow. Everyone, from coach Gregory to close friend and confidant Corey Heyward, is looking to Georges-Hunt to “expand his role” and establish an environment for success in the locker room and on the hardwood.
“Marcus is really what college athletics is all about,” Gregory says. “Leadership is always a big question and debate, and it doesn’t truly show until the season starts and adversity hits. That is when you need leadership, direction and that one voice in the locker room making sure everybody is on the same page. That is one of Marcus’s main jobs this year, no question about it.”
Georges-Hunt found his voice during the off-season.
While he has been a starter and go-to player since his first practice with the Yellow Jackets, he confesses he “wasn’t really that talkative” during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He deferred to veterans and focused on honing his game, particularly last year, when opponents schemed to limit him offensively in response to his breakout freshman season.
“He’s evolved, I guess you could say,” says Heyward, who along with Georges-Hunt and Chris Bolden was part of Gregory’s first recruiting class at Georgia Tech. “He’s been the guy everybody watched since he first stepped on campus. All the guys in the program respected him and his game, and by being more vocal, he won the respect of all the new guys, too.”
Georges-Hunt is the prototype college basketball player in many respects. He’s athletic, highly competitive and knows no enemies in the locker room. He also excels in the classroom – he’s a two-time Academic All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer – and fulfills his responsibilities to his girlfriend, a student at Georgia State, and their young son.
His work ethic and time management skills leave teammates in awe, and his positive, upbeat demeanor speaks to his maturity.
“We take a psychology class together, and one day we were going over life’s major stressors, and he deals with almost all of them on a daily basis,” Heyward says. “Yet he’s as calm and focused as anybody you’ll ever meet. And he’s going to ace the class.”
Georges-Hunt credits his family and upbringing for his success. His father, Willie Hunt, instilled in him a competitive will and sense of teamwork and fairness. His mother, Larisa Graves, stressed academics and accountability, messages echoed by his grandmothers. His three brothers, particularly his two younger siblings, pushed Georges-Hunt to be a positive example for others to follow.
Gregory is counting on Georges-Hunt emerging as Georgia Tech’s next great impact player.
The coach’s discipline approach requires commitment and attention to detail, and Georges-Hunt acknowledges the risks of that come with mixing a hard-nosed environment with a roster heavy on young players and transfers.
“Everybody has to buy in, and then everybody has to stick with it when things get tough,” Georges-Hunt says. “I see competitive toughness in this group, though, and very few signs of mental weakness. I feel we will be ready to handle adversity when it comes, and I intend to do what it takes to lead us through it.”
Georges-Hunt’s most tangible contribution will be on the scoreboard. He averaged 11 points a game as a freshman and 12 points as a sophomore, but with the departure of double-figure scorers Trae Golden, Robert Carter Jr. and Daniel Miller from last year’s roster, Georgia Tech will need Georges-Hunt to pour in more points. Georges-Hunt also defends the opponent’s top perimeter scoring threat in most games.
Georges-Hunt needs to display nothing short of “total unselfishness on defense and offense,” Gregory says.
“He’s in a pretty high category already,” the coach says. “He’s the guy to keep your eye on.”
Georges-Hunt, role model, doesn’t mind.