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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Mad Ants center Chris Hunter has returned from two Achilles injuries hoping to make it back to the NBA.

Veteran Ant back on his own terms

Hunter did not want 2 Achilles injuries to be the end of career

– Chris Hunter contemplated retiring after suffering two Achilles injuries within 19 months, but then he realized he didn’t want his career to end with him sitting on the couch.

“I didn’t want to leave my career on an injury. I wanted to do that on my own terms,” Hunter said.

That’s why he’s back with the Mad Ants. He wants to see if he can make it back to the NBA or, at least, finish things in a more positive fashion.

When he played for the Ants in a 104-101 loss to Iowa at Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 12, it was his first game action in almost two years.

He tore an Achilles in December 2010 with the Mad Ants, then tore the other one in 2012 while playing for the Los Angeles Clippers’ NBA summer-league team.

He was limited to only four games in between.

“Initially, when the second Achilles happened, I briefly thought about (retiring),” said Hunter, 29, who played in college for Michigan from 2002 to ’06. “But when I got done with the rehab, I was feeling good. I felt I could still run and jump and still play, and I wanted to keep doing it.”

The Mad Ants, who are 2-5 heading into today’s game at Iowa (6-2), needed a big presence in the paint and were willing to be patient as the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Hunter readied himself to play.

Hunter has averaged 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 22 minutes per game in three games.

“It felt good to be back out there. It’s been a long road to be out there. But it felt good to get up and down the court and to just be able to compete again,” Hunter said.

He averaged 19.3 points and 9.4 rebounds for the Mad Ants in the 2008-09 season and was a D-League All-Star and second-team All-League. He was called up to the New York Knicks, though he never played with them.

He was a full-time NBA player the next season, averaging 4.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 13.1 minutes in 60 games with nine starts for the Golden State Warriors.

But he was back in the D-League in 2010-11, averaging 14 points and 6.4 rebounds for Fort Wayne, before his first Achilles injury.

Being out of basketball for so long, save for four games in December 2011 and January 2012 when Hunter didn’t feel right yet, was a mixed bag.

“I was getting bored, but I had just had my son (after the second injury) and was able to stay at home with him for the first year of his life,” Hunter said.

“So that was a good thing.”

Because of his size, the Mad Ants believe Hunter could redevelop into the best big man in the league.

“You’ve got to ease back into it, get back into game shape and get my legs back under me,” Hunter said.

“I’ve been working hard to try and get there.”

Fort Wayne has no other players taller than 6-8, so the need for Hunter’s size is obvious.

“It’s great having another big out there and me not having to fight in the post 1 on 5,” said 6-7 Chris Porter, who averages 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Ants. “It’s great to have Chris (Hunter) back.

“He’s a great addition to the team. He’s going to help and it will go well.”

jcohn@jg.net

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