Gianni Hunt’s Division I basketball offers numbered into double digits.
The four-star point guard had his choice of where he wanted to continue his playing career. Most of those possibilities came from his home state of California, but also Arizona and Nevada.
When it came time to narrow the field, it was USC, just outside his backdoor, about 20 miles from his home in Lakewood; San Diego State, a few hours down the road; and Oregon State, which provided a chance to branch out.
“My family, I think they wanted me to go to USC, stay close to home. They could come to my games more often,” Hunt said. “But I felt it was good for me to get away, find myself. I don’t really feel like I’m away from home because it’s a good family environment here.”
In the end it was Oregon State, which he says felt like home and where he wanted to be all along. It didn’t hurt that he got a stellar review from a first cousin, former Beaver football player Rashaad Reynolds.
“They were one of the first schools to start recruiting me. They recruited me the hardest and the longest,” Hunt said. “I had family that went here and played football. They told me about their experience with the city and the college town. There was nothing not to like about it.”
There were also more connections.
Hunt played two years at Southern California’s Bishop Montgomery High School alongside OSU junior-to-be Ethan Thompson. He was familiar and comfortable with the Thompson family. Stephen Thompson, Ethan’s dad, is a Beavers assistant coach and Stevie Thompson Jr., Ethan’s older brother, played four years at Oregon State.
Hunt, 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, says that familiarity was a big factor. He and Ethan Thompson led Bishop Montgomery to the CIF Open Division title during the 2017 high school season, when Thompson was named the state player of the year.
“Hope we get the same results that we got in high school, that’s a championship. But it’s going to be great,” Hunt said. “I’ve been telling people from day one that’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever played with. He’s a competitor, he’s hard-working and he’s going to push me to get better every day.”
After Ethan Thompson left for Oregon State, Hunt led the Knights to a league title and a deep run in the CIF regional playoffs the next two seasons. He averaged 11.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.1 steals as a senior.
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Hunt also has played against fellow OSU true freshmen Julien Franklin and Jarod Lucas. He says there’s already a chemistry and bond there.
Hunt drew high praise from Beavers head coach Wayne Tinkle after signing last November.
“He's a true point guard, he's a leader and he's very vocal. He really sets the tone on both ends with his style of play,” Tinkle said. “He's a very capable scorer, but is a pass-first, defend-hard, run-your-team kind of point guard.”
Hunt describes himself as a floor general and true point guard who plays both sides of the ball. He likes to get teammates involved offensively and also create shots for himself. He says he always wants to win and make the right play.
New teammates have taken notice after spending a few weeks together on the court since they arrived in Corvallis.
“He’s tough. I can tell that he loves the game, takes it very serious. He never takes a play off,” said junior guard Sean Miller-Moore.
Added Lucas: “Gianni’s a leader. He’s probably a pass-first type of guy and I like playing with him.”
Hunt says he has the toughness and physicality that Oregon State has sought throughout Tinkle’s five-plus years leading the program.
The toughness is something that’s already instilled in him as something he grew up with, he added. It won’t be something he has to learn because it comes with his game.
But he understands the transition to college basketball and taking on a higher level of physicality — the speed and strength of opponents — will be a challenge.
“In high school I would say I was one of the bigger, stronger, faster guys, and I’m not going to be like that in college right away,” Hunt said. “I’ve just got to get used to playing and not being that guy anymore.”