Debbie Hunter to be inducted into Gopher Hall of Fame
Former Cloquet basketball player Debbie Hunter, who went on to star for the University of Minnesota Gophers, will become the fifth player in Gopher women's basketball history to have her jersey honored with a banner hanging in the rafters of Will...
Former Cloquet basketball player Debbie Hunter, who went on to star for the University of Minnesota Gophers, will become the fifth player in Gopher women's basketball history to have her jersey honored with a banner hanging in the rafters of Williams Arena. The ceremony will take place Jan. 18.
Hunter, a 1978 graduate of Cloquet, helped lead the Jacks to the state basketball tournament as a guard her senior season. She then went on to set numerous records at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she played from 1979-1983.
"I chose Minnesota because I am a homebody," said Hunter from her office in Texas. "I wanted to stay where my family could see me play and I wanted to try playing at the Division I level."
During her career, Hunter became a dominant player for the Gophers and some of her records are still standing the test of time. Hunter still owns the Golden Gopher record for assists (532) and steals (413). At the end of her career, she was ranked second in scoring with 1,363 points during a time without a three-point line. To this day, Hunter's point total is still number eight on the all-time list for the Gophers.
"Words can not even explain what this means to me," stated Hunter in a news release. "When Pam (Borton) called with the news, I cried. That banner may go up with my name on it, but it represents the four teams I played on."
Throughout her time at the U of M, Hunter set the mark of consistency for the program. She was a two-time Golden Gopher Most Valuable Player and was also among the first Minnesota players to earn acclaim on a national scale.
Hunter earned American Women's Sports Federation Honorable Mention All-American honors in 1982, she was All-Region three times and she was named to the first All-Big Ten First Team after her senior season in 1983.
With Hunter, a 5-foot-10 guard at the helm, the Gophers became a household name on the national basketball stage during a so-called coming of age era for Minnesota basketball. The Gophers made it to their first national tournament appearances in 1981 and 1982, they received their first national ranking (18th), and they had the most wins in school history when they won 28 games in the 1980-1981 season with Hunter leading the charge.
Following graduation, Hunter has had similar success as the head women's basketball coach and athletic director at Bethel College, at Colorado College as the women's basketball coach, and currently at Austin College where she is the head basketball coach.
"I live in Sherman, Texas, and I am the head basketball coach as well as the senior woman administrator at the college," explained Hunter. "I love the Division III environment and the small college environment."
Hunter's career started in Cloquet where she starred for the Lumberjacks coached by Dave Burgett.
"I've coached for 40 seasons in girls basketball and she is by far the best player I have ever coached," said Burgett. "She was so far ahead of her time it was unbelievable. Her skill level was way ahead of everyone and her ability to see the floor was incredible as well."
Hunter played high school ball at around 5-foot-9.5 and started at the point guard position. So she already had an advantage with her height, but it was also her speed which set her apart.
"Her 4x100 relay team won the state meet and she was the anchor," explained Burgett. "Hunter was just such an incredible athlete and she had the drive, and that gave her the work ethic she needed to succeed."
In her senior season, Hunter came down with the flu the day of a road game at Duluth East. Cloquet center Becca Brown was also out with an ankle sprain.
"I'll never forget that game and that whole sequence of events," recalled Burgett. "We got beat at East 79-14 and then we played them the final game of the season at home for the conference championship. Hunter scored 42 points and Brown had about 18 points and we won the game by 20 points. Hunter just had that much of an impact."
After hearing of the ceremony, Hunter contacted Burgett and asked him to join her in the ceremony at Williams Arena.
"What an honor," said Burgett. "You always hope for the best from your players, but to have them become an All-American and have them inducted into the Gopher's Hall of Fame, this is pretty good stuff."
At this point it also appears as if a contingent of former Cloquet High School athletes will attend the ceremony to help honor their friend, classmate and colleague.
"What a great thing that would be if we had some of those kids who used to play at the old YMCA come down for this," mentioned Burgett. "Those people were also instrumental in her development as a player, so it would be great for her to see that kind of support."