Eric Hunter Jr.
Former School: Purdue
New School: Butler
Years Remaining: One
Recruiting Ranking: 150th
2021-22 Stats: 6.2 ppg/2.1 rpg/2.0 apg/25.8 mpg; 46.2%/43.6%/68.5%
Eric Hunter Jr. spent four years with the Purdue Boilermakers under Matt Painter. After coming off the bench as a freshman, Hunter started all but one game in his sophomore season. He ran the point that season and scored 10.6 points per game as one of Purdue’s best three-point shooters.
After a strong sophomore season, Hunter failed to find consistency. He once against started nearly every game the following season, but he took a smaller role in the offense. His shooting percentage fell from 41.5 to 37.1 percent, and his scoring dipped to 8.5 points.
As Jaden Ivey, Trevion Williams, and Zach Edey took steps forward last year, Hunter became a depth option on offense. He averaged 6.2 points, but his shooting numbers ticked up significantly with the smaller volume. Hunter reached career highs in shooting percentage (46.2), three-point percentage (43.6), and offensive rating (113.5). Hunter thrived in deferring to his teammates while taking the opportunities they created. He also thrived on the defensive end of the floor, where he became a bright spot in a unit that struggled to defend for much of the season. Hunter was named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team for his efforts.
What’s His Game?
I’ll let Hunter speak for himself on this one.
“I feel like I’m the head of the snake when it comes to the defensive end,” he said in March.
His on-ball defense was a bright spot on a poor defensive team all season long. His quick feet show up at both ends, and he is routinely engaged off the ball on defense. He is good at communicating and executing switches on defense.
Opponents rarely targeted him on drives, and it was easy to see why.
Hunter was Purdue's best defender, being named to the Big Ten All-Defense team last season. He was a bright spot in a unit that otherwise struggled at times.— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 14, 2022
He forces the travel here, although it wasn't called. pic.twitter.com/aFryGbDvtV
Hunter didn’t put up flashy steal numbers, in large part because it wasn’t worth it for opposing offenses to bring the ball near him. Still, his instincts showed up when he had opportunities to make plays.
Hunter's instincts continually jumped off the tape. He rarely makes flashy plays like this because opponents wouldn't test him. pic.twitter.com/6EOJdw11bB— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 14, 2022
Purdue’s defense would switch pretty frequently. Hunter’s quickness and energy helped him be an asset when they did this. On this play, he gets switched onto a big man and fronts him well enough to deny the pass. Then, he traps the ball handler to switch back onto a better assignment.
Here he switches twice and fronts the big man in between. Quick feet, good positioning, and good communication. pic.twitter.com/8LIQNbAumY— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 14, 2022
Offensively, Hunter is streaky and has a tendency to disappear. When he plays with confidence and purpose, he can be a great scorer. Hunter has experience catering to others in an offense and plays unselfishly. He has experience delivering clean entry passes in an offense built around a big man.
When Purdue did call upon Hunter to play a larger role in the offense, he delivered. He came out firing against Minesota and had his biggest game of the year.
Hunter showed flashes in the mid-range when he was confident as well. pic.twitter.com/ffFJlZQ14B— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 14, 2022
Hunter’s strength on offense was as a shooter. He would move well off the ball and get open for looks as the offense’s fourth or fifth option when things weren’t working.
When he got hot, Hunter was capable of going off. He had 20 points at Minnesota and knocked down 4 3s. pic.twitter.com/5cIgUBC2Qa— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 14, 2022
What’s His Role?
Hunter is a true combo guard capable of running the point or playing off the ball. With Aaron Thompson gone, Thad Matta will likely call upon Hunter to replace him in the starting lineup.
After spending the last two seasons catering to other options on offense, Hunter will have an opportunity to assert himself as a top option this year. He can be more efficient than Thompson was last season while also representing an upgrade on defense.
Hunter’s versatility also means that Matta doesn’t have to use him strictly as a point guard. With Chuck Harris and a fully healthy Myles Tate sharing time in the back court, Hunter won’t be the only option to run the offense. Matta could move him off the ball in stretches to take advantage of his perimeter shooting to space the floor.
No matter how the rotation breaks out, Hunter should see an increase in playing time from last season. If he can keep the efficiency he found last year, Hunter will be a very solid player at both ends of the court for the Bulldogs.