INDIANAPOLIS—With a whistle and a smile, the practice really began.
Those quick run throughs on plays were only a warm up for the practice session at The Jungle on Wednesday afternoon. Three minutes in, Hunter grabbed the ball and gestured to his team to move to center court.
Once there looked to the other basket and pointed.
"From half court, from half court," said the longtime IUPUI coach to his players, all now standing around him in a group, waiting to take their shot.
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A few tried, and missed, and a few enjoyed a chuckle or an "ooh" when a ball would bounce off the back of the rim, but the true reactions were saved for the coach. With and underhand toss, he threw it towards the goal, and came up well short.
"I try to keep it as simple as I can," said Hunter, but this little activity has a purpose.
Since the Summit League's NCAA Tournament representative always has, and likely always will, come from the winner of the conference tournament , the veteran coach has come up with a simple philosophy to deal with the anxiety that comes with a do-or-die type situation.
"I'll take all the pressure and let me deal with that. I just want them to go play," said the coach, only he takes it to another level.
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When he joins his team on the flight to Sioux Falls, SD on Friday, he'll have quite a bit of down time planned.
"We're gonna go to a movie, we're going to go bowling," said Hunter. "I think when you get to this time of year you overcoach and you get to tight. We're gonna have fun, we're gonna go dancing, we're gonna have a great time.
"I don't want them to think anything about winning championships."
Hunter's followed through in the past too. In fact two year ago, the coach says he participated in a now infamous game of laser tag when the team was in Tulsa.
"I actually got hurt two years ago playing laser tag with these guys and I think they did it on purpose," said Hunter, who said the injury wasn't too serious. "We're in the dark and, you know, guys are kinda elbowing me, and they were the guys that didn't play. They guys that played didn't do it."
It worked then, as the George Hill led squad went all the way to the title game before falling to Oral Roberts. In 2009-2010, according to one player, the strategy has worked this season, when the normally intense coach showed his lighter side.
"One game, before the game, he came into the locker room and did a dance. One big dance and the whole team was laughing," said forward Robert Glenn, who was named along with guard Alex Young to the league's first team on Thursday. "We did come out and win the game."
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Now they'll hope to do the same on Saturday when the second seeded Jaguars open play against Western Illinois, although there are a things they'll try to avoid.
"I got a mohawk," said Young of his haircut before the Summit League tournament in 2009, when IUPUI lost in the first round. "But that's bad luck so I'm not going to do it this year."
He need not worry, because the coach probably has something else up his sleeve.