RiceOwls.com sat down with this year's Men's Basketball newcomers for a Q&A. The first installment features freshman guard Najja Hunter.
How did the recruiting process go for you?
“Honestly, it was kind of stressful. Being a teenager and everything you deal with, then dealing with the recruiting process too. It was fun too though because you (were able) to see different programs and get to know different coaches. There was a sociological aspect to it. You have to understand what the right spot is for you and who works best with you coaching-wise. So, at a young age, you have to mature really quick.”
What was it about Rice that stood out to you?
“My mom always advocated for academics and being able to push yourself in getting a good degree. I think Rice can help me in understanding the bigger picture. You have to sacrifice a lot going here. But, you also understand that your future is important. Being able to understand that is really cool and just adds to your maturity.”
You’ve been practicing with the team for a few weeks now. What has been the biggest difference going from the high school game to the college game?
“In high school, you can just run up and down and play. It’s a lot more freedom. There’s a lot less thinking. In college, you have to think more. You have to have more attention to detail. You really have to stay connected with all of your coaches. The game is definitely faster. It’s up and down, up and down. You have to get used to your body feeling (tired) and you have to get used to playing through that. There’s a lot of mental toughness that you have to overcome playing in college. That’s different from high school.”
How have you been able to adjust to college in general?
“Of course, there’s a lot of obstacles when adjusting to college. It’s cool because you get to be in a new environment and you get to learn more about yourself. Adjusting at first was hard, but it’s getting easier.”
What basketball player do you try to model your game after?
“Definitely Penny Hardaway, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jason Kidd. Those are my favorite players.”
You’re one of six newcomers on the team. Is it easier going through the transition knowing there are five other guys going through the same thing?
“Definitely. That’s part of team comradery. We understand that we’re all struggling and that we’re going to get through it together. Being with other people helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel and understand that you’re not the only one going through it.”
Has there been a returning player that has helped you out?
“The fortunate part about this program is that all of the returning players are awesome. They show support and help me navigate the school. But, so far, it’s definitely been J.T. (Trauber). He’s been helping me the most. He’s been helping me learn the plays and with all the things that I find myself struggling with.”
What are your goals for the season?
“I definitely want to help the team be the best that it can be. I have personal goals, where I can push myself to score a certain amount of points and have a certain amount of rebounds and assists. Coach (Scott) Pera has definitely been helping me learn the point guard position. This year, I’m really focusing on becoming a better leader and an overall teammate.”
When you’re not on the court or dealing with academics, what do you like to do in your down time?
“I’m an extrovert, so I definitely like socializing with people. But, I also like being myself. I find that when you’re by yourself, that’s when you find out the most about yourself. I embrace, in a sense, loneliness. I love watching different movies. I love going on adventures by myself. I went down to Montrose and hung out for the day by myself. I love music. Music is probably one of the most important things to me.”
What are you listening to before a game?
“For me, I listen to all types of music. But, before a game, I have to get into a certain mode. So, I usually listen to G Herbo, Chief Keef, some really intense rappers that are talking about their struggle because that pushes me to be the best that I can be in the game. It motivates me to give 110% at all times.”
What is your favorite movie?
“I love movies. Right now, I’ve been watching Wes Anderson films, so my favorite movie so far is the Royal Tenenbaums. The creativity in that movie is crazy. The styling in the movie is crazy. The clothing, the shots.”
What is your favorite television show?
“It’s either between Stranger Things or Freaks and Geeks. I really like old school, 70’s vibes and that type of fashion. Freaks and Geeks is really cool to me because there was only one season and it was so good. It was surprising to me that there was only one season and it didn’t continue. I think the idea of that is what really made me cling on to it and remember it.”
What is your favorite food?
“Sushi is my favorite food. I’ve been to Sugar Fish in Brentwood, Calif. The sashimi changed my life. Yellow tail, scallop roll, hand roll. I didn’t know I was eating sushi until I went to Sugar Fish. I’ve changed ever since then.”
If you could have dinner with three people, past or present, who would it be?
“Ty the Creator, Frank Ocean and Spike Lee.”