AEK's Hunter elevates play, claims Gameday 4 MVP honor
ATHENS (Greece) - It’s going to be a monumental achievement if AEK repeat as winners of the Basketball Champions League this season because as everyone knows, the competition in Year 3 is very strong and balanced.
There are a lot of teams in the hunt. Take it from Vince Hunter of AEK, who played in the BCL in its first couple of seasons and won last year's title in Athens with the Greek club.
“ANYONE THAT WINS A CHAMPIONSHIP THE YEAR BEFORE, THAT’S A SPECIAL MOMENT FOR OUR TEAM. WE HAVE A BIG TARGET ON OUR BACK AND EVERYONE IS GOING TO BRING THEIR BEST GAME AGAINST US.”
“I feel like it’s getting better each year," he said.
If AEK can show the sort of fire, resolve and awesome effort as they did on Tuesday in a 90-80 come-from-behind triumph at JDA Dijon, well, they’ll have as good a chance as any team of going all the way.
And if Hunter puts on the sort of performance he did against Dijon on a regular basis, AEK will definitely be in the reckoning.
Hunter scored at will, making all 12 of his shots. He rebounded with ferocity. And maybe most impressive of all, he defended like a tiger and had 4 steals to prove it.
He finished with a sky high efficiency of +39.
After his 25-point, 11-rebound and 4-steal effort, one in which he showed boundless energy and gave AEK an intimidating presence not only in the low post but all over the place on defense, the 24-year-old power forward/center has been named the Gameday 4 MVP.
“We needed the win," he said. "We just need to keep getting wins and to play hard, that’s my mindset."
What happens when you win a title? Every opponent the next year guns for you.
Hunter and defending champions AEK have taken every team's best shot so far this season
Each team that has faced AEK this season has brought its best effort. Hapoel Yahav Bank Jerusalem upset them in Greece on Gameday 1, 79-75, and AEK had to pull out all stops to win in double overtime, 94-93, at CEZ Nymburk on Gameday 2.
In their third game at home to Brose Bamberg, AEK had a 15-point advantage shaved to just six in the fourth quarter but held on for a 93-86 triumph and now, after facing an 8-point half-time deficit at Dijon, the Athens club stormed back with an impressive third quarter.
“I JUST TRY TO BRING A LOT OF INTENSITY ON THE DEFENSIVE END, AND THE REBOUNDING.”
They went in front by 14, only for the French club to claw its way back to 70-65 early in the fourth quarter. AEK won comfortably in the end.
“Anyone that wins a championship the year before, that’s a special moment for our team," Hunter said. "We have a big target on our back and everyone is going to bring their best game against us."
Hunter has been filling up the highlight reel with his gravity-defying slam dunks the past couple of years but what may not be fully appreciated is how hard and well he plays on defense.
Hunter was a big part of AEK's success last season when they captured the BCL crown
"I just try to bring a lot of intensity on the defensive end, and the rebounding,” he said.
So what is it that Hunter is thinking about right now? What is his approach going to be the rest of the way in the Basketball Champions League? It's pretty simple.
“We’re just trying to show people that we’re going to be a tough team to beat and we are the defending champions," he said. "We’re trying to repeat and have the same feeling we had last year."