BOSTON — If you were told the Celtics would select R.J. Hunter and Terry Rozier in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft, you’d probably think Hunter was the one who came off the board first.
That’s not the way things played out Thursday night.
Boston did land both the Georgia State sharpshooter and the Louisville point guard, but not at the spots most would have expected. Rozier was the first to go, hearing his name called surprisingly early at No. 16, while Hunter had to wait until the very end of the first round before the Celtics finally snatched him up at No. 28.
And while the Rozier selection was widely criticized by C’s fans as an unnecessary reach, the choice of Hunter — one of the breakout stars of this year’s NCAA Tournament — was much more palatable.
Boston sorely lacked scoring from the wing this season — and, really, scorers in general outside of Isaiah Thomas — and the 21-year-old coach’s kid provides that in spades. Hunter averaged 19.7 points per game during his junior season at Georgia State and possesses devastating range, which he showed off on college hoops’ biggest stage this March.
That buzzer-beater against Baylor was Hunter’s coming-out party, but Celtics coach Brad Stevens has known about his skill for years. Stevens recruited him while he was head coach at Butler and Hunter was a player at nearby Pike High School in Indianapolis.
Hunter went on to play for his father, Ron, at Georgia State, but Stevens continued to keep tabs on the new Celtics draft pick throughout his collegiate career.
“I know him well,” Stevens said after the selection was announced. “I’ve watched him grow up, watched him get a lot better as a player, improve greatly from the time he was a freshman, sophomore in high school to the time he was a senior. And then obviously followed his success from afar at Georgia State.
“So, I’ve known him for a long time. … I think he’s got a big upside. Really shoots the ball. You guys have seen all the stuff on him.”
Hunter now joins an extremely crowded Boston backcourt, where he’ll compete with a whole host of fellow guards/wings for playing time. Fierce competition is sure to ensue when the team assembles for the first time next week, but Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has liked what he has seen from Hunter thus far.
“R.J. has a really good feel for the game,” Ainge said. “He’s a good shooter, a good pick-and-roll player. He can shoot deep. He has great length. He’s a real basketball player. He’s a good all-around player.”
Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images
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