Darweshi Hunter’s first game as a college player cemented his long-held belief that he was good enough to play Division I basketball.

Five months later, he made the choice that will soon make that belief a reality.

Hunter, a high-scoring wing player from Central State University, committed to Weber State men’s basketball Thursday night.

Darweshi Hunter basketball Central State mug shot 2019-20

Hunter

Through the recruiting process, the 6-foot-5 Hunter, who finally turned heads as a Division II player, said he appreciated the work WSU’s coaches put in to understand his game and that he felt “their want.” Thursday evening, a video chat with head coach Randy Rahe “really sealed the deal.”

“He just reiterated everything, told my parents what it was. After we got off the call, I talked to my parents and we all agreed that yeah, this is the spot for me,” Hunter told the Standard-Examiner.

As a freshman, Hunter was the top scorer among the 13 four-year schools in Central State’s conference, averaging 20.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Hunter shot 51% from the field and 38.5% from the 3-point line in his one season with the Marauders, and was the second-best freshman scorer among 307 teams in Division II.

Hunter has three seasons of eligibility left and is the fourth player to commit to Weber State’s 2020 class. The other three are transfers with college experience and are immediately eligible; he joins Division I graduate transfers Dontay Bassett and Isiah Brown, and junior college player Zahir Porter, as currently committed players. Hunter hopes to obtain a waiver to play immediately.

With the opening of the signing period approaching next week, at least three more additions are expected at some point this offseason.

Hunter grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, until the age of 14 when his family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where his parents are from. He played at Princeton High School with now-Oklahoma City Thunder player Darius Bazley (who, coincidentally, was drafted by the Utah Jazz last year but was part of the trade that sent Mike Conley to Utah).

Experiences like playing alongside Bazley, and their team playing a game against future Boston Celtics player Romeo Langford on ESPN, made Hunter feel like he would belong in Division I. But after high school, then a year in post-graduate prep school, he couldn’t seem to blip the radar of Division I recruiters — even from the 13 such schools in his home state.

So Hunter signed with Division II Central State, just 50 miles up the road near Dayton. He couldn’t wait to prove himself.

“None of the D-I schools in Ohio recruited me out of high school so I was like, ‘if we end up playing any of them, I would just give them straight work,’” Hunter said.

After he signed, he would often refresh the schedule page on Central’s website to see who the Marauders would play. One day, Wright State — the Division I school in Dayton even closer to his home than Central State — appeared on the schedule as the season-opening exhibition. Central made the 12-mile bus trip to Wright State on Nov. 5, 2019.

“I made a shot, then airballed my second one. After that, I just locked in and kept scoring,” Hunter said.

He shot 13 of 21, including 4 of 8 from the 3-point line, to score 35 points against a Wright State team that would later defeat Weber State, go 25-7 and win the Horizon League.

He had, by all accounts, a good freshman season and decided to put his name in the transfer portal, making the third opportunity for Division I schools to come calling.

Wright State finally did, along with Bryant, Drake, Robert Morris and St. Bonaventure. But Weber State’s offer earlier this week felt different.

“Some of the other schools, out of high school I was right in the backyard, y’all should’ve got me the first go-round,” Hunter said. “Some of them, the way they were talking, their plan for me coming in was to kind of fit a system and they were trying to (pigeonhole) my game. But Coach Rahe, he told me what it was — I’m going to grow as a player and get better — and they want to help me reach my aspirations of being a pro. And they’ve had players like Dame (Damian Lillard), and players go overseas and make money. I just felt like that’s the best spot for me.”

He was surprised both with Weber State’s interest and in coaches’ preparation.

“One of the assistant coaches called me. I was like ‘hello,’ and he was like ‘this is such-and-such from Weber State’ — and I was like ‘wow.’ I knew Dame went there and knew they had a good program,” Hunter said. “The way they were talking, they did their research. They looked up my shot selection, the games I played, the players on my team, how the season went. They told me I averaged 1.1 points per minute, which is really good as a freshman.

“They did their research before hitting me up and knew a lot about me, they knew my game and stuff like that. I liked that. I finally talked to Coach Rahe and we chopped it up. He said they could really use me. I felt their want, and I loved that.”

Hunter said he was sold on WSU’s player development — and it didn’t hurt for his parents that Cincinnati and Salt Lake City have daily direct flights as Delta hubs.

“I want to grow as a player and I feel like they can help me do that,” he said. “They have proof of players who have done it and I feel like I can be one of the next ones to do the same thing.”

Hunter will join a group of Weber State newcomers that will outnumber returning players on the 2020-21 team, but he says he isn’t worried about that prospect.

“If you just work together and everybody is unselfish and worries about the next man, we’ll all be fine,” he said. “If we come in with the attitude that we’re trying to help each other and win games, then everything will be fine.”

Contact Brett Hein at bhein@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @bhein3/@WeberHQ and at facebook.com/WeberStateSports.

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