Georgia State coach Ron Hunter has the right idea.
"The NCAA should mandate that teams give back, or do something for the community when they go on these foreign trips," Hunter said. "There's so much poverty in the world and we can help."
Hunter's right - and he's no stranger to giving back. He made his sixth trip abroad with Samaritan's Feet when he took his team to South Africa last month.
"I wish I could find a word to describe what happened on the trip," Hunter said. "It changed me and my life."
Hunter saw his son, freshman R.J. Hunter, take the socks off his feet and give them to a young boy in need from South Africa. He watched his players break down in tears at the sight of watching the struggles of kids who have grown up in severe poverty. When Georgia State huddles together prior to games this season, they will won't say, "Win". Instead, they'll yell, "Zero-Zero-One" in honor of a prayer they say in South Africa.
"They may not have breakfast or lunch," he said. "But they just want the opportunity to have one meal. It puts everything in perspective. No matter how bad things can be here, over there kids are thankful just to get one meal a day."
His team didn't play a single game, not a single minute of basketball on the trip, yet my sense is that Georgia State's journey was more productive than any of the 60 or so foreign jaunts that were taken this summer.
"Kids didn't have cell phones, so they had to talk about their feelings to one another," Hunter said. "We had devotion every day so we could talk about what happened that day."
Hunter's mission, through Samaritan's Feet, has been to give shoes to as many kids in need as possible. He's gone to Cameroon, Costa Rica, Peru and South Africa to help address the problem that affects nearly 300 million people across the world. This trip put it all in perspective for Hunter. Here's a guy who was admittedly frustrated in the offseason when he learned that his players would not be allowed to participate in the CAA tournament due to the program's impending departure to the Sun Belt in 2013-14.
"I was upset," Hunter said. "It bothered me, but after this trip you realize how small that is in the grand scheme of things. This trip was our postseason, our Final Four."
While the team didn't play any games on the trip, Hunter did utilize the 10 practices -- and we got his thoughts:
What Hunter learned: We've got some talented players. Guys like Devonta White, Manny Atkins, R.J. We've got to put it all together, but I really like the talent level.
Who stood out: Manny Atkins is really good. He played in the ACC, sat out last year and is a captain."
Concerns: "I'm worried about February for me and the kids. I've always coached to get ready for the conference tournament. I'm not going to be able to coach that way this year. It'll be different."
- Hunter made no secret that this is the most talented team he's coaches in his 19 seasons as a head coach. He has nine new players. "This trip was great for us to bond," he said.
- His son, R.J., chose to play at Georgia State despite multiple offers from high-major programs. "I never asked him to come here," Ron Hunter said. "I just let it play itself out." The elder Hunter said that he doesn't think his son would have made the decision to play for him if he was still at IUPUI.
- Devonta White is the only full-time starter back. He led the team in scoring last season at 12.9 points per game.
- Hunter is also high on freshman forward Marcus Crider, a one-time Providence signee.
- Senior big man James Vincent, who averaged 3.2 points per game last season playing sparingly off the bench, has lost about 20 pounds or so and has the inside track to a starting spot.
- Hunter on not being allowed to play in the CAA postseason tourney. "We'll play with a chip on our shoulder. Every game becomes a tournament game for us."