Chicago — During his days starring at Consortium High School, Vince Hunter was a Detroit kid.
Although it seems like a long time ago, it's only been two years. But Hunter has grown so much as a basketball player and has sprouted new roots on the west coast.
Hunter played two seasons at UTEP and declared early for the NBA draft. He averaged 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds, shooting 53 percent from the field for the Miners last season.
Measuring at just under 6-foot-7 without shoes for the NBA combine this week, Hunter is projected as a potential second-round pick, but could go undrafted next month.
"I'm just chasing my dream and want to provide for my family. I have a great opportunity and took it and ran with it," Hunter said. "Since I left college, I've gotten better. My goal is to get better in life and improve my skills."
Even through his success at Consortium, Hunter didn't think that he'd be in position to go to the NBA, but as he improved in his two years at UTEP, the dream came more into focus for him.
He's slotted as a power forward, but could play some small forward if he's able to improve on his ball-handling and passing and can take care of the ball.
During a 5-on-5 scrimmage Thursday, he was the leading scorer with 18 points and added 12 rebounds. That could help open some eyes for scouts who weren't familiar with his game. But he realizes that he'll have to fit into a role with an NBA team until he's able to work on his game more.
"I played really hard and today it was me just trying to get a feel for it. I didn't show too much skill set but I rebounded well and showed my athleticism," Hunter said. "In college, I played a little defense, but my main thing was scoring. When I get into a role position, I'll just do my role, play defense and rebound — I just love that role right now."
Hunter grew up watching the Pistons and he would relish the opportunity to return to play for his hometown team, despite their recent struggles.
"It would be a great opportunity for me to be in Detroit," he said.
"My mom is my best friend and my heart. For her to come to a lot of the games would be a blessing; she would love it."
Earning his way onto a roster through work in the summer league might be a realistic route for Hunter, but he's not afraid of working for what he gets — a work ethic that he's familiar with from his time in Detroit.
One of the benefits of being an undrafted free agent is that he could determine which teams best suit him and try to find the best fit, instead of trying to work with a team that is stocked at his position.
"Currently, I'm predicted to go undrafted but the dream hasn't come true yet," Hunter said. "If I do go undrafted, I'm going to take one day at a time and get better. If I have to play in the Developmental League, I'll just take that as an opportunity and a blessing and play hard."
Pistons president Stan Van Gundy had a front-row seat at Friday's sessions of the combine, taking notes on some of the players involved in the 5-on-5 games at Quest Multisport Complex.
Although most of the top players opted out of the team scrimmages, Van Gundy likely was gauging talent he can grab in the second round.
The interview process also continued.
According to the players, the Pistons met with Kentucky big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, along with sharpshooter Devin Booker. Duke's Justise Winslow, Arkansas' Bobby Portis and Kentucky's Trey Lyles said they have not yet met with the Pistons, but that process could continue next week, when they'll bring in players for individual workouts.
Booker said that he could fit with the Pistons, though they likely aren't looking for a shooter early in the lottery.
"I feel like shooters can fit anywhere. They have a very talented (shooting) guard with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and I feel like I fit right along with him," said Booker, a Grand Rapids native. "Reggie (Jackson) and (Andre) Drummond have that pick-and-roll down. (Having) me creating more space on the floor will make it easier for them so it would be a great fit."
Johnson said that he met with a group of the Pistons scouts but the interview was led by Van Gundy, who asked the typical questions about his background and how he could fit as a backup to Drummond.