Shining moment for Philly native De'Andre Hunter as Virginia wins NCAA title

Tim Jimenez
April 09, 2019 - 7:01 am
Virginia Cavaliers guard De'Andre Hunter (12) cuts down the net after beating the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the championship game of the 2019 men's Final Four at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The NCAA men's basketball title game was an overtime thriller Monday night. The University of Virginia is now home to the national champs, and a player who calls Philly home had a lot to do with it. 

The clock was winding down. The game was on the line. Virginia needed a three-pointer to tie up the game and stay alive. The ball and the University of Virginia's season were in De'Andre Hunter's hands. Then the 21-year-old Philadelphia native knocked down the biggest shot of his life to send the game into overtime, where Virginia took control. 

"It's surreal," Hunter said. "It's a goal we set at the beginning of the season. We knew we were going to bounce back from last year. We achieved our dreams."

Related: Comeback! Cavs get their title, 85-77 in OT over Texas Tech

Hunter, a 2016 graduate of Friends Central in Wynnewood, was referring to last year, when Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed. He wasn't there for that, because he broke his wrist. 

"This is a great win for our program. Great win for our coach. We worked for this all offseason and all that work just paid off."

And in the stands in Minneapolis to watch it all, was a group from Friends Central, including Hunter's high school coach Ryan Tozer

"To see him play last night, on the biggest stage, he was just terrific. It was just an amazing experience," Tozer said. "It's great that the whole country got to see him play last night."

Tozer says Hunter always had the best attitude and worked the hardest in high school. "It made my job a lot easier," he said. And he says Hunter took that with him to college. 

Even with all the success, and the NBA in his future, Tozer says Hunter doesn't forget where he's from and who's been standing by him. 

"He's very appreciative of the support that everyone's giving him over the years, and he likes to share that with everyone who's ever been involved with his basketball career in his life," Tozer said. "He's just a humble kid, and I think that's what I love most about him."

Virginia's win now means there are three Friends Central graduates to win national basketball titles. Hunter joins Amille Jefferson, who won with Duke in 2015, and Hakim Warrick, who won with Syarcuse in 2003.

Monday night marked Hunter's final game in a Virginia uniform, a struggle in the first half, but he had some big shots when it mattered the most. Of his 27 points, 22 came in the second half and overtime. 

It reflects Hunter's career. His freshman year, he didn't make it off the bench. He was redshirted. He had a really good season last year, until he broke his wrist. But today, Hunter's Virginia Cavaliers are national champions. And the Philly-native is on track to be drafted in the NBA this summer.