CONYERS — Discipline, structure and a tenacious attitude can best describe how Inglis Hunter has been raised, both as a student in life, and as a teacher on the basketball court.
Growing up as a three-sport standout in Athens, Georgia, Hunter’s journey en route to being tabbed as the successor to Jarrod Davis at Salem — the boys basketball’s frontman since 2015 — has taken its fair share of twists and turns.
An Army veteran turned college basketball and baseball standout at Voorhees College was only the start to what would soon become a career in coaching after returning home to Georgia, only to find himself starting at the lowest possible level, recreational hoops.
In the years that followed, Hunter found himself as an assistant at Stockbridge while also taking stops at Forest Park and Riverdale Middle Schools. Hunter landed his first head coaching job at Towers before taking over as the head coach at Booker T. Washington before the start of the 2014-15 season.
Having spent the last five years coaching the Bulldogs to a career 32-100 record, a change of scenery was needed.
“It was time for a change,” Hunter said. “I just wanted to take a different philosophy somewhere else and to grow, as well as getting a chance to work with a little more talent. Not that i didn’t have quality kids, but just different. It was time.”
When the Salem job was made available after Davis, who was recently promoted to the school’s Athletic Director, Hunter didn’t hesitate to give him a call.
“I knew coach Davis from his time at Drew and I knew of him before that too when I coached at Stockbridge,” Hunter said. “When I saw the job posted, I reached out to him and asked him what was going on. He told me that he was going to step down and move on and asked if I was going to send in my resume.”
After two rounds of interviews for Hunter and selling himself on the vision he hopes to cultivate at his new home in Conyers, the veteran coach was hired. A large portion of Hunter’s selling point wrapped around the importance he places on work ethic.
“I was being myself during the interview,” Hunter said. “I’m a disciplinarian. I spent nine years in the military and was raised by a single mother. You learn how to get up and do things and do things on your own. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve tried to have structure and discipline. Didn’t always win at those places, but the kids had those things and have gone on to be better men.”
Five years of active duty service in the Army and four years in the reserves has helped shape that very work ethic and regimine Hunter has carried throughout his early stages of life and on into his time spent as a basketball coach.
Hunter went as far to say that his military background and the way he coaches have a direct correlation.
“It definitely does,” Hunter said. “The structure and discipline that you get in the military, it helps you with everything else. It helps that will to get over the hump when you don’t think that you can. The mental toughness that you need to have in life.”
With Davis set to take over the athletic director duties at the start of the 2019-20 school year in August, conversations between the two have already taken place in regards to what direction the Salem basketball program will head in.
In Davis’ four years as the head coach, he helped lead them to a 72-37 record and three trips to the Class AAAA state playoffs.
“He’s already told me that I can’t worry about him and what happened in the past,” Hunter said. “He told me that I have to just do my thing, change the culture and change the philosophy. He told me that if he wanted to keep someone like himself, he wouldn’t have quit coaching. So he’s giving me the green light.”
In the weeks that have followed his hiring at Salem, Hunter tabbed Dorrian Randolph as his varsity assistant. Randolph comes to Salem from Eagles Landing, where he spent the 2018-19 season as the school’s head junior varsity coach.
On top of his head basketball coaching duties at Salem, Hunter will also take over the reigns of the Salem softball program after the departure of Jamie Walker. Hunter has coached softball for more than 10 years at his various stops.
“(Davis) kind of sprung it on me,” Hunter said. “I was focused on basketball until one day he called me and asked out of the blue how I felt about softball. I told him to look at my resume. I have been coaching softball for the past 10 years.”
For a softball program looking to revitalize itself, Hunter said he is the right man for the job.
“Coming here, it’s all about changing the culture,” Hunter said. “They told me that they had never worked out and never did any conditioning. Coach Davis told me that it is going to be new for them. So far, the parents are buying in. I have parents willing to come up and help with anything that I need.”
With hopes of having an improved 2019-20 season, Hunter said it will take time to regain what the program once was.
“Walking into a rebuild, that’s a challenge,” Hunter said. “But when you see the fruits, that’s when it’s worth it. This year, we’re going to be competitive. It’s just me getting girls to come out and train.”