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Zach Hunsaker ’20 wraps up college basketball career

Point guard contributes 27 points to Bruno victory against Dartmouth in final game of season

Zach Hunsaker ’20 was heralded as a leader on the men's basketball team from the moment he transferred to Brown as a sophomore, serving as team captain in all three of his seasons with the Bears. Before coming to Brown, Hunsaker played for Snow College, a community college near his hometown of Orem, Utah. He was part of NJCAA Division-I First Team All-Americans, and led the Scenic West Athletic Conference in points with 20.4 per game and free throw percentage at 82.7. Initially a Dartmouth commit, Hunsaker was cut by the Big Green roster after he took a gap period to serve a religious mission in Mozambique. 

In his first season with the Bears, Hunsaker was the team's third-leading scorer with an average of 9.7 points per game and shot 93.3 percent from the free throw line. In his second season, Hunsaker had seven double-digit games, and was one of only three players to appear in all 32 contests, during which he helped lead the team to a fourth-place finish in the Ivy League. In his final week of play, Hunsaker was named Ivy League Co-Player of the week. In the final game of his collegiate career, Hunsaker contributed 27 points in Bruno’s 70-58 victory over Dartmouth. The senior is on track to graduate with a double concentration in Economics and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. For his storied career with the Bears and an impressive final outing, Hunsaker has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.

Herald: What was the team’s initial reaction to learning there would be no postseason (due to COVID-19)?

Hunsaker: We were all shocked. We didn’t really have a chance to process everything that happened, because it was so quick. We went from ending our game against Dartmouth and thinking we'd be able to play in either the (College Basketball Invitational) or (College Invitational Tournament) to hearing everything was canceled. By the time we would have had a chance to meet as a team again, we had already been sent home. We were sad, because, obviously, we didn't have a chance to play in a postseason tournament. But also, we didn't have a chance to say proper goodbyes to each other. We didn't have those normal end of season feelings with the whole banquet and celebration.

Was there time for any sort of formal send-off for the seniors?

No, there wasn't. I know the returning players have a Zoom call with our coach to go over plans for the summer. I think (Head Coach Mike Martin ’04) is in the process of putting together a Zoom call to give out the end of season awards and have one last “gathering” of the team and the families and any person that would have otherwise come to the end of year banquet.

Did finishing your senior season by beating the team you had initially committed to hold any particular meaning?

It was a great way to end for me. I had a couple of great last games, but to end my basketball career by beating Dartmouth was pretty special in its own way. ...  I didn't really think about it at the time, but my dad definitely reminded me after the game. So, it was kind of a cool ending to my career.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame in your collegiate basketball career?

That is a tough one. I guess, overcoming myself, in my own way. Before I came to Brown, I was a little more concerned about myself and a little more selfish in my own desires, always wanting to be kind of the star, so not putting my team before myself. But being at Brown really taught me to be more positive and be more team-oriented. There were times in my first two years (of college basketball) that I really was struggling with being negative because things weren't going my way. That ended up separating me from my team, so I wasn’t as much a part of things as I could have been.

Eventually, at Brown, I realized that when I stopped looking at everything in a bad light, that I enjoyed being around my teammates more. But the biggest thing is, when I wasn’t being selfish, I played much better. That positive outlook was something I learned from a couple of my teammates, especially (Travis Fuller ’19). I really looked up to him. I remember playing terribly and reaching a point where I realized, “I need to have a more positive outlook or I’ll go through my last couple years of college basketball without having any fun at all.” So I made that flip and when I started looking at everything in a more positive light and enjoying myself, I actually started playing a lot better and playing more. It was a major lesson for me.

What on-court triumph are you most proud of?

Last year at (a win against San Diego State University) was probably one of the most fun games I've ever played in. I didn't even score much, but it was still one of the most fun games. I got to see a couple of my teammates have crazy good games. It was a great thing to be a part of, and looking back, what was even more special was what I was just talking about; the impact of being more positive. It was only two or three weeks before that game that I made the conscious choice to focus on switching my outlook. Usually, if I had only scored three points, I would have left the game angry. But instead this was one of the best games of my life, because I watched my teammates play so well, and got to just enjoy being part of one of Brown's greatest wins.

What role has faith played in your development on the court?

My faith (as a Latter Day Saint) has had a central role, not only in sports, but in my whole life. In terms of basketball, I think it allowed me to gain the respect of my teammates more quickly. Being nominated captain right when I first came in as a transfer sophomore is not an opportunity I would have had if not for who I was because of my faith. My teammates saw how disciplined I was, how I was true to myself, and that I didn't let anyone or anything else influence what I was going to do or who I was going to be. That’s all, obviously, because of my faith.

How do you anticipate basketball will factor into your life after Brown?

I'll definitely use basketball to continue making connections in the professional and personal worlds. I still don't know if I'm going to play in city leagues or with friends, but it’ll always be something that will help me to make quick connections with people, and continue to help me use the Brown alumni network, which is particularly strong in basketball. It’s a resource I’ll always be grateful for. I am going to try and coach my own kids one day and continue to help build the Hunsaker legacy for basketball. I'll definitely reflect back often and always be telling a lot of stories about it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


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