EDMONTON – For sweet-shooting southpaw Mason Hunter, the injury diagnosis he got after a MacEwan Griffins preseason game last fall was a tough one.
His shooting hand. Broken.
Not only did that put him on the shelf for the entire first semester, it affected his confidence, forcing him to spend the bulk of January getting back up to speed.
One of the conference's purest shooters, Hunter announced his return to prominence Jan. 28-29 when he drained 40 points combined across two games in Calgary – including a 27-point effort on the Friday, the eighth-best single-game output in MacEwan's Canada West history.
"I think I was just staying aggressive," he explained. "After being out for a while, getting back into things really helped and my teammates really helped me get good looks and good shots. It just started falling."
Hunter will lead the Griffins (0-12) into a weekend home series vs. Mount Royal University (5-9) on Friday (8 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m., both David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
Griffins head coach Mike Connolly is again seeing shades of the dominant scorer Hunter was when he played for UAlberta-Augustana, scoring the fifth-most points in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference in 2018-19 with 394 in 24 games, the year before transferring to MacEwan.
"The Mason that we recruited played (against Calgary) offensively," said Connolly. "That was Mason in the ACAC where he had the ball was making decisions, making plays and making shots. He kind of got in a groove. He wasn't just shooting it (well), he was setting up other guys and was really working well with Dami (Osuma) and some of the other guys on pick and rolls.
"And for the first time in a long time, he shot with authority," added the coach. "He shot without thinking about it. He just shot it and was confident. That's the biggest thing. He's starting to feel comfortable and starting to feel like he's back to where he was when he started playing college."
Mason Hunter puts up a shot under pressure against former Griffin, Alberta's Abdullah Shittu in a game earlier this semester (Robert Antoniuk photo).
That comfortability has come over time.
"It's confidence – just being able to hit the shots when they happen and look for my scores," said Hunter. "And like I said earlier, just stay aggressive.
"It's difficult because I spent several weeks not being able to shoot the basketball at all," he added. "I was able to do off-hand work, but not being able to shoot for an extended period of time was a little bit tricky."
Hunter, who is finishing off a Bachelor of Commerce degree this year and wants to become a lawyer, has been a leader for the Griffins on and off the court since joining the program, especially setting a standard in the classroom.
The two-time (soon to be three-time) U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian shared the Griffins' Top Academic Award for his School of Business faculty in 2020-21.
"He's brought some consistency and some leadership," said Connolly. "He's a very responsible and cerebral man. Every year he's been here, he's a 4.0 student.
"So, he's brought that leadership, that professionalism, that way of work and it comes into his game where he works hard on his shot. I think he's really grown that way and he's brought that leadership and professionalism in how he carries himself."
Hunter is always quick to help others on his team with their studies, too.
"I like to think so," he said. "I always try to check in on the guys and make sure everything's going academically well for them or if anyone needs a hand or even just someone to study with in the library.
"I'm available for those guys because it's difficult for a first-year guy to deal with. All your academics are new, as well as athletics, so I just try to help out."
And as he eventually passes the torch to that younger generation of Griffins – which could happen this year or next (he still has another year of eligibility left, but is graduating) – Hunter hopes he will be remembered as one of the building blocks.
"The team is incredibly young," he said. "The majority of our guys are first-years, so there's a ton of potential for growth, for sure. I see it every day, they're getting more confident and more comfortable as they progress. Adding a few more pieces here throughout the years, they're going to be looking pretty good."