‘Tough as hell’: Forde’s high praise for Hunter

Sydney Kings centre Jordan Hunter has risen from a rookie benchwarmer to starter after learning from Australia’s greatest big men in Andrew Bogut and Luc Longley – now he is ready to lead the injury-ravaged Kings to the finals.

According to Kings coach Adam Forde, Hunter’s growth is one of the stories of the NBL season.

The Sydney-born big celebrated his 50th NBL game in style in Thursday’s win over South East Melbourne with 11 points, six rebounds and a whopping six blocks.

Forde reserved the ultimate praise for Hunter, hailing him the team’s most important player heading into Saturday’s vital clash against the Taipans in Cairns.

“He is tough as hell and he is the backbone of our defence,” Forde said about Hunter, who has benefited playing alongside Bogut and spending time under Sydney’s special adviser in three-time NBA champion Longley.

“When he is not good defensively, we are not good defensively as a team.

“And he is aware of that.

“What is great about his evolution is he is able to shoulder that burden and responsibility now.”

Jordan Hunter has become a key player for the Sydney Kings. Picture: Brett Hemmings/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Hunter is also prepared to put his team before his own self pride.

This was on display in Sydney’s win over the Phoenix when he didn’t make a fuss about staying on the bench as veteran teammate Daniel Kickert exploded in the second quarter with 13 points.

Coach Forde was blown away by Hunter’s team first mentality.

“I would have played him longer, but Kickert was rolling, and Jordan just said, ‘No, keep Kicks out there and I’m good with that’.

“For a young fella he is filling up the stats sheet, sometimes guys rightly so want to get theirs but the fact that he was more than willing to keep the momentum with Kicks (is impressive).”

Hunter is averaging a career best 7.4 points per game at a team high 57 per cent from the field, while he also leads the Kings in rebounds and blocked shots.

He was below his best in Sydney’s round 13 loss to South East Melbourne as the Phoenix surged to a comfortable 14-point win.

Sydney Kings big man Jordan Hunter learnt a lot from recently retired champion Andrew Bogut at the Kings. Picture: AAP Image/Brendon ThorneSource:AAP

Forde revealed he challenged Hunter to respond, which he did with an impressive display in Thursday’s win over the Phoenix.

“I was super critical of him for that performance, and I’m probably harder on him than anyone else because I’m aware our success rate lies not solely with him, but he is a big part of it,” he said.

“I want him to be really good, he wants to be really good, and he is definitely on the right path.”

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