In 2001, before social media could take something like Hunter’s shot and his father Ron’s reaction and propel it world-wide, the Panthers upset heavily favored Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
It was the school’s first win in the tournament since it began playing the sport in 1963-64. Just like now, it was then that the Panthers seemed to be taking the first steps toward becoming a mid-major power.
Two of the people involved in that upset, coach Lefty Driesell and player Kevin Morris, and another who got the program’s momentum headed in a positive direction, former leading scorer Rodney Hamilton, are part of a group of 10 whowill be honored on Saturday when Georgia State recognizes its first hall of fame class during the football game against Liberty at the Georgia Dome.
“It’s such an honor to be recognized for the hard work you put in at Georgia State,” Morris said.
The picture of Morris looking at the camera with raised fists is the iconic image following that win. He said they thought they had a chance to upset sixth-seeded Wisconsin as they began preparing for the game.
Like the win against Baylor, the victory over the Badgers came down to the final seconds when Shernard Long hit the game-winner with 12 seconds left. Morris scored a game-high 18 points and was named the player of the game.
The victory helped put Georgia State on national consciousness.
“Because Georgia State didn’t have football and had never won much in basketball, people thought it was a just a little university,” Driesell said. “It’s a great big university.”
The victory also fulfilled the potential that Driesell told Morris could be realized when he decided to transfer from Georgia Tech to Georgia State.
“He told me, after you sign, the flood gates are going to open and we are going to start something big,” said Morris, who lives in Smyrna. “Next day, all those guys transferred back. They probably would have never thought about going to Georgia State but they were right here from Atlanta. They wanted to stay home here in Georgia.”
That strategy probably sounds similar to what Ron Hunter has done, bringing back players like Ryan Harrow and Kevin Ware, two key contributors to last year’s team.
The group that joined Morris included Long (Georgetown), Darryl Cooper (LSU) and Cedric Patton (Alabama). Junior college signees included Thomas Terrell, ‘Bam’ Campbell, James Gilchrist and Keith Branch.
Here are some of that team’s accomplishments that year, compiled by Georgia State and posted on the school’s website:
- Set the school record for most wins in a season (29)
• Received votes in the national polls (31 votes in AP poll)
• Scored the most points in school history (2,701, 79.4 per game)
• 29 wins were third most in the NCAA this season
• Went 16-0 at home and a school-record 12-4 on the road
• Played four teams that made the NCAA Tournament and beat three of them
• Played two teams that made the National Invitation Tournament Tournament and split
Driesell said he has no doubt that Georgia State is again headed in a positive direction after things began to deteriorate following his retirement during the 2002-03 season.
“It’s going to be a great basketball program,” he said.