At the age of nine, Lester Hunte was exposed to the game of basketball through watching the “greats” such as Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, his older brother’s favorite player. Mesmerized by such influential images, Hunte knew what he wanted to do in life.
Living in the projects of Bronx, New York, Hunte played basketball in the house on a daily basis with his older brothers, Marcus and Sherod, to stay out of trouble in the rough neighborhoods surrounding them. Making due of what he had, he would set up a basket behind his door and use beach balls from the local Wal-Mart as basketballs.
Hunte was around basketball all of his life. His mom, Tonia, and aunt, Yolanda, were on the dance team as students at Monroe College in the 90’s. Going up to the school to watch his mom and aunt perform at games gave Hunte and his brothers an excuse to attend every men’s collegiate basketball game which was coached by Jeff Brustad, who still coaches until this day. Later on, Hunte’s brother Sherod also played for Monroe College but couldn’t finish due to heart problems. Motivated to be the first out of his family to graduate, to continue his family’s legacy and to make it professionally, there was no question as to where Hunte would play when the time came to decide on a college and team to sign with. “I thought it would be unique to have the opportunity to attend and graduate from the same school my own mother attended and to also play basketball for the same coach that’s been there since my mom,” says Hunte. “I knew I was destined for the life of a basketball player. My brothers and I grew to love basketball and I took it to the next level.”
The game of basketball has definitely helped shape the man Hunte is today. Growing up as someone who never listened to anyone because he thought he had all the answers changed after basketball taught him what team work, hard work and constructive criticism really meant. “This game has made me dedicated and motivated to becoming a professional and that has not changed since my college years at NJCAA Monroe College in the Bronx as well as Northwood University in West Palm Beach.”
When it comes to injury, Hunte is no stranger. After coming from playing overseas in Switzerland the summer of 2011, Hunte participated in a local neighborhood game. During this game, he tore his ACL on his left knee. Doctors told him that he was done for the rest of the year. Hunte became shocked and discouraged but that feeling didn’t last long. He knew he wanted to make a living out of playing basketball, so he took the bad and turned it into good. From surgery day on July 26, 2011, Hunte walked out of the hospital focused to get better. Hunte attended physical therapy three days a week and remained on crutches for months. Even while on crutches, Hunte would go to the park to shoot around, showing his counterpoints that he was indeed a fighter and dedicated to the game. Within four months, Hunte was back on the court running full court games while wearing a special knee brace. “I am so blessed and thankful that God blessed me with the talent I have because I can honestly say I am not the same player I was before I got injured. I had to pick myself up as soon as I got home from surgery. I had to prove to myself that I am a great player. I had to show my family how much I loved this game. I made it my business to walk out to the courts on crutches so youth that looked up to me could see that I wasn’t discouraged.” Hunte’s focused mentality and hard work during therapy was confirmed when he and his New York team “Team914” won the Dyckman Championship, also attracting attention from the European Pro Leagues. A year later, in December 2012, Hunte felt extremely humbled when he was called to try out for the world famous Harlem Globetrotters. After the tryout, Hunte ended up signing a contract with them until May 2013.
Hunte believes that in order to love the game you must first be attracted to the life. “As a basketball player, you have to be tough yet consistent, motivating, inspirational and most of all dedicated.” Hunte recalls a quote his legendary coach, Rollie Massimino, once told him – “Every day you will battle with yourself, and of course your opponents, to be the best YOU can simply be when no one’s watching.”
Motivated by his family and 3 year old son Daniel, Hunte continues to follow his dreams, especially when considering how far he has come. Hunte reminisces on his younger days when he watched his older brother’s play, bonding and listening to every word they said, even when he didn’t want to. Basketball has become his life. He wakes up wanting to work out. He’s ambitious and confident. He hungers for success while watching his son grow up, hoping to one day be his role model and inspiration. “Follow the dreams you want to become REALITY! Don’t ever limit yourself and your abilities. The NBA isn’t the only place you’re limited to play as a professional. Basketball is a sport that is played all over the world. Everyone that goes to a big time school doesn’t necessarily go to the NBA. I had to go through my own steps in life to realize that I didn’t need to attend Duke, North Carolina or Georgetown to become a professional basketball player. I love this game enough to put in the work, the same work I put in at a NAIA D2 school with All American Honors in 2010.”
Hunte has played professional basketball for 1 year in Nyon Switzerland for the 2010-2011 season and averaged 18.2ppg, 7.3rpg, 4.0apg, 3.0spg. In round 25, he ranked 3rd top performer with a 31 ranking with a game high of 26pts, 10 rebounds and 5 assist. Hunte has also been ranked 11th overall in rebounds (7.3rpg).
At the moment, Hunte is partnering with former WNBA player, Tora Suber, to start youth camps, helping with things such as college drills, conditioning and more. As far as next steps in Hunte’s career, he plans to further his career overseas while working on signing a major contract that will support him and his son. In addition, Hunte looks to inspire the youth around his hometown, encouraging them to stay focused on their goals and work hard to get to that final destination. At the young age of 25, Hunte is ready to take on the world.
“If you want to be great in life, do what the next person isn’t. Practice like you never won before. Play like it’s your last game. Win as if you’re losing. Love the game isn’t just a saying to me; it’s a lifestyle and means the world to me.” – Lester Hunte
Written by Erica Wright
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