17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
to read

"It was just a matter of time" - Hunter Hale named MVP for January

MIES (Switzerland) - Joining the ranks of Vernon Carey Jr, Justin Tillman and Levi Randolph, Hunter Hale has become the fourth MVP of the Month in Season 8.

The Promitheas Patras guard led his team back to the Round of 16 upon their return to the Basketball Champions League, and is keen to take them even further.

Promitheas played in the BCL back in 2018-19 and reached the Round of 16, where they were eliminated by eventual finalists Lenovo Tenerife, in two games. Now they are back into the same phase of the competition, and it's mostly thanks to  Hale bringing on the Halestorm all over the continent.

In early January, the Greek team were pitted against Le Mans Sarthe Basket in the Play-Ins, without homecourt advantage.

Not a problem, Hale thought, pouring in 25 points in 27 minutes on the road, including the dagger three-pointer, his fifth of the game, to give the Patras club a 1-0 series lead.

Game 2 was smooth sailing by comparison, as Hale needed just 19 minutes to score 16 points and Promitheas completed the 2-0 sweep to move into Round of 16 Group L.

That's where Hale's favorite rival awaited. Having previously scored 32 points against AEK BETSSON BC in a Greek League game, he knew what to do to propel Promitheas to another win.

Hale once again knocked down 5-of-7 three-pointers, finished with 21 points and secured a one-point win for his team. In the last game of the month, Promitheas had a late surge and lost by single digits to UCAM Murcia on the road. It was a defeat, but they prevented the Spanish side from becoming the first team in BCL history to get seven straight double-digit wins.

Hale's numbers in that one? A BCL season-high 29 points, in just 28 minutes of work.

Overall, he averaged 22.8 points on 16-of-26 shooting from three-point range in January, doing enough damage for Promitheas to go 3-1 during that month.

No wonder his teammates all had the same response when asked if they were surprised by the fact that Hunter Hale is the Basketball Champions League MVP of the Month for January.

"Hunter winning this is no surprise, that man puts in work every day and when we play, it shows," said Chris Coffey.

Anthony Cowan thought it was just plain sense: "No, it doesn't surprise me, the way he's been scoring the ball has really given us the opportunity to be in some tough games," he said.

De'Shawn Stephen meanwhile went a step further: "Amazing! No, I'm not surprised at all. Any names besides Hunter or [Anthony] Cowan is a surprise to me," he said.

Stephens mentioned the key ingredient to Hale's scoring explosion: His chemistry with Cowan has been off the charts for the last month, creating a backcourt one-two punch like few others in the entire BCL.

However, they didn't click instantly in their first season together. Hale averaged just 10.5 points per game during his first four BCL bouts, struggling to put on the kind of performances he had in the ABA League during his first two seasons in Europe.

What has changed since New Year's Day?

"I feel like the biggest reason for this improvement was because he loves basketball. He had to sit out a few games, which made him hungry," Coffey offered.

"I'm not sure what the difference is, as a team we all know what he can do on the court, I think it was just a matter of time," Cowan explained the time factor for the aforementioned click.

"It's simple. Earlier in the season he was dealing with a minor hand injury, but since he's been back from that, he really hit the ground running. I can't be more happy for him," said Stephens, giving an answer similar to his play on the court - physical and straightforward.

This is the first time in BCL history that a Promitheas player has won the MVP of the Month award. The 26-year-old guard has also scored in double figures in his team's four Greek League games in January,

This consistency he's been showing lately it bears the question - could we see another Cibona game from Hunter Hale?

Last season, playing for Borac Cacak, Hale registered 17 games of 20 or more points in the ABA League, while he scored 30 or more in five of them. And then there was that game against Cibon when he went absolutely off the scale: 44 points, 7-of-12 from deep, 5 assists, 4 rebounds.

The BCL all-time record for most points scored in a single game is 43, set by Keifer Sykes back in 2019. Something to keep in mind the next time you're watching the January MVP in action.