Georgia State coach Ron Hunter took his basketball team to South Africa. It did not play a single game or even touch a basketball. But it came away better people and players.
“The NCAA should mandate that teams give back, or do something for the community when they go on these foreign trips,” Hunter said. “There’s so much poverty in the world and we can help.”
Hunter was on his sixth trip abroad with Samaritan’s Feet when he brought his team along to South Africa.
“I wish I could find a word to describe what happened on the trip,” Hunter said. “It changed me and my life.”
Hunter saw his son, freshman R.J. Hunter, take the socks off his feet and give them to a young boy in need from South Africa. He watched his players break down in tears at the sight of watching the struggles of kids who have grown up in severe poverty. When Georgia State huddles together prior to games this season, they will won’t say, “Win”. Instead, they’ll yell, “Zero-Zero-One” in honor of a prayer they say in South Africa.
“They may not have breakfast or lunch,” he said. “But they just want the opportunity to have one meal. It puts everything in perspective. No matter how bad things can be here, over there kids are thankful just to get one meal a day.”
Their experience was lasting, to say the least.
“Kids didn’t have cell phones, so they had to talk about their feelings to one another,” Hunter said. “We had devotion every day so we could talk about what happened that day.”
Hunter’s mission, through Samaritan’s Feet, has been to give shoes to as many kids in need as possible. He’s gone to Cameroon, Costa Rica, Peru and South Africa to help address the problem that affects nearly 300 million people across the world. This trip put it all in perspective for Hunter. Here’s a guy who was admittedly frustrated in the offseason when he learned that his players would not be allowed to participate in the CAA tournament due to the program’s impending departure to the Sun Belt in 2013-14.
“I was upset,” Hunter said. “It bothered me, but after this trip you realize how small that is in the grand scheme of things. This trip was our postseason, our Final Four.”