A welcome return
Tim Jankovich hoping junior forward can make significant leap for second consecutive season
Posted on 06/21/2020 by PonyFans.com
After exploring his professional prospects, forward Feron Hunt is returning to SMU for his junior season (photo by SMU athletics).
Every team deals every offseason with replacing outgoing players. In men’s basketball, one of the annual offseason rituals is sorting out whether talented players who still have eligibility remaining will return to school or explore their professional prospects by declaring for the draft.

SMU head coach Tim Jankovich has had to address that question three times this offseason. Point guard Kendric Davis considered the idea before announcing he would be back in Dallas for the 2020-21 season. Forwards Isiaha Mike and Feron also declared their intentions to explore their professional futures, and while Mike has said nothing to indicate a change in plans, Hunt announced recently that he will be back for his third season at SMU.

The uncertainty of what the future held for Davis, Mike and Hunt left head coach Tim Jankovich and his staff in something of a waiting game as far as roster management. The Mustangs had no seniors on scholarship last year, meaning they had room to offer new players unless someone left. Davis, Hunt and Mike represented three possible — but not guaranteed — openings. Guard C.J. White has since put his name into the transfer portal.

Davis’s dalliance with turning pro was brief, but could have left a massive void. He finished second on the team last year in scoring, with an average of 14.2 points per game, and in steals, with 30, and his 173 assists were 103 more than anyone else on the team. Getting Hunt back also represents a significant boost, after a sophomore season in which he finished fourth on the team in scoring 11.0 points per game) and led the Mustangs with 6.7 rebounds per game.

Decisions to stay in school or move to the next level are tricky for players and their families … and for college coaches.

“The only think I want for players to do when it comes to this is to do what’s right for them,” Jankovich said. “I never want to see one of two things: I don’t want to see a player stay when he should have gone, and I don’t want to see a player leave when he should have stayed. I want all of our players to do what is right for them, for their whole lives, including after college, after basketball.

“Selfishly, I’m very happy to get (Hunt) back, because he’s a very good basketball player and we’re a better team with him. I think Feron made a good decision, and I hope that he gets where he wants to go.”

Asked if he was surprised that Hunt chose to return to the Hilltop, Jankovich paused.

SMU head coach Tim Jankovich asked forward Feron Hunt after his freshman season to work on becoming a more viable shooting threat, and is hoping to see a similar jump in 2020-21 (photo by SMU athletics).
“I don’t know if ‘surprised’ is the right word,” he said. “I thought he would go about the decision in the right way, first of all because his parents are very bright and grounded, and I felt like they would help him make a good choice. One of the biggest fears you have, as a coach, is that sometimes young men will get influenced by outside influencers that really don’t have the player’s best intentions in mind.

“But Feron’s parents are great. I knew they’d give him great perspective. You really want players to make good decisions based on all of the facts, not on what someone might hope.”

Like prospects across the country considering the jump to the next level, Hunt sought feedback about what the scouts saw in his game.

“It’s so important that when someone goes into the draft, he gets accurate feedback so he can make a solid decision,” Jankovich said. “Thankfully, the NBA is so much better than it used to be. There was a time when no information was out there, and guys would leave college because they were told not by the NBA, but by outside influencers, and if they liked what they heard, they’d go and would just end up hurting themselves. That’s what you want to guard against. If a guy is positioned to go into the draft, and we have several guys who have a legitimate case, it’s our job to encourage them to get all of the information that’s out there and make the right decision. There’s no question that we’re a better team with Kendric and Feron, and if Isiaha comes back, we’ll be better with him, too. But it’s not our job to talk them into coming back.

“My reaction is really a mixed feeling. On one hand, any coach is thrilled when a good player selects to come back, but at the same time, I don’t really celebrate, because I know that deep down, every one of these guys is hoping to get a chance to play at the next level. You don’t get to be as successful as they are without drive and ambition to go along with their talent.”

One thing Jankovich said he wants to see from Hunt is improved consistency.

"Feron has the ability to be a dominant rebounder, and there were games last year when you saw that, when he was dominant," Jankovich said. "But he's a very smart player who wants to improve, and he would be the first to tell you that he had some games that were better than others. He can dominate as a rebounder and is becoming a better shooter, both of which will help him on his path toward his goal of playing after college."

For Hunt, Jankovich said he sees enormous opportunity in 2020-21. After several games early in the 2019-20 season, Jankovich talked about how Hunt had worked extremely hard in the offseason to become a shooting threat that opponents need to respect. Thanks to an assortment of dunks and an improved outside jumper, Hunt was the only Mustang to connect on more than half (.557) of his field goal attempts and even knocked down 14 three-pointers.

“In Feron’s case, I’m glad that he’s at peace with this, that he knows he made a good decision,” Jankovich said. “I hope he learned a lot and got a lot of feedback, and got some good reinforcement, and is ready to make another big jump. He made a significant jump between year 1 and year 2, and I hope he can make a similar jump this year.”

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