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Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team newcomer makes presence felt
Southeast Missouri State women's basketball coach Ty Margenthaler was looking for a point guard who could provide offense and experience to his second Redhawks squad.
Junior college transfer Jordan Hunter has given the Redhawks that and more during her rookie Division I season in which she has established herself as one of the Ohio Valley Conference's top first-year players.
Hunter has been named the OVC newcomer of the week three times -- second-most in the league -- including consecutive weeks recently.
"She's played well for us. I've been very pleased," Margenthaler said. "She just continues to get better."
Hunter is Southeast's second-leading scorer with an average of 10.3 points per game, just behind senior guard Bailie Roberts' 10.8 mark. Her average in OVC play is 12.5 points, again behind Roberts' 14.7.
Hunter, during OVC games, ranks third in the league in assists at 5.5 per game, second in free-throw shooting at 90.5 percent, sixth in 3-point field-goal shooting at 44.4 percent and ninth in minutes played at 33.7.
The junior ranks sixth in the OVC in assists for the season with a 3.9 average, third in free-throw percentage at 82.1 and eighth in minutes played at 32.1 while also leading Southeast in steals with 25.
"I see her game continuing to grow and it's exciting we'll have her back again next year," Margenthaler said.
Hunter, a native of New Zealand who was a third-team junior college All-American last year at Crowder Community College in Neosho, Mo., said her inaugural season with the Redhawks began to take a turn upward following a slow start after she simply learned to relax.
"I guess I put too much pressure on myself instead of just playing," Hunter said. "Now I just play. I don't worry about the small stuff. I'm a lot more relaxed."
Margenthaler emphasized that Hunter meshed well with her teammates from the start even if her play was sporadic early in the season.
And Hunter also provided two of Southeast's individual highlights of the early campaign with dramatic game-winning baskets in the final seconds against Arkansas State and Texas-Pan American.
"She had kind of a slow start basketball-wise, but I was amazed how well she jelled with the girls when she came here in August," Margenthaler said. "That's her maturity and experience."
Those were some of the traits that drew Southeast's coaching staff to Hunter during the recruiting process. The Redhawks were in search of a versatile point guard following the graduation of four-year performer Bianca Beck.
"A couple of things I liked were her experience and her age as well. She's got a lot of international experience," Margenthaler said. "And we needed somebody to give us a scoring punch."
The 22-year-old Hunter, the oldest player on the team by a few months, gained valuable experience last summer as a member of the New Zealand National Team. She competed in the Olympic qualifying tournament although her squad failed to make the field for the 2012 Summer Games.
"That experience definitely helps," said Hunter, who also credited Southeast assistant coach and former WNBA first-round draft pick Dionnah Jackson with her development. "She's been a great mentor for me. I'm still learning stuff."
Hunter said she has enjoyed her time with the Redhawks and continues to be elated with her decision to attend Southeast. She said she felt comfortable during her visit and really didn't consider any other colleges.
"I visited Mercer [a Division I program in Georgia], but when I was here for a visit I knew I was going to come here," Hunter said. "I liked I was in Missouri, closer to the people I knew [in junior college in Neosho, Mo., which is near Joplin]. I liked the school was smaller.
"I really like it here. The community is really easy to adjust to. Everybody is very friendly, very accommodating."
Hunter said another thing that attracted her to Southeast was the chance to help turn around a struggling program.
The Redhawks (8-11, 2-4 OVC), despite their current three-game losing streak, already have won more games than during Margenthaler's first season last year when they went 7-22. Southeast's next victory will mark the program's most wins since the 2008-09 squad went 15-15.
"Coach explained what he's trying to do, and he wanted me to help out," Hunter said. "I wanted to help make a change. It's exciting."
Even though Hunter has been performing well for the most part, she always is looking to improve. One of her big goals is to cut down on her turnovers, which especially was a problem early in the season and continues to plague her.
"I'd say take care of the ball a lot better," said Hunter, who is majoring in biology. "Just decision making, who to pass the ball to."
If Hunter, among five Southeast newcomers -- the other four are freshmen -- and the Redhawks continue their steady improvement they just might find themselves in the OVC tournament for the first time since 2008-09.
Hunter said that's a major goal, but the Redhawks don't want to be satisfied with simply qualifying for the postseason event.
"We definitely want to make that conference tournament and win the whole OVC," she said.