North Texas Daily

On point: Huntsberry’s influence felt on and off court

On point: Huntsberry’s influence felt on and off court

On point: Huntsberry’s influence felt on and off court
December 03
14:00 2022

Senior guard Kai Huntsberry has been all smiles since joining men’s basketball. 

The transfer from the University of Mary had a breakout 2021-22 season that set him up to make the jump to Division I. Huntsberry said his goal from a young age was to play the sport he loves, no matter where that may be. 

“My mom and dad were always around me playing and I saw the joy that they had when I played,” Huntsberry said. “That made the love I had for it skyrocket even more. I was never like, ‘If I’m DI I’ll play’ — it was at any level I wanted to play. I just so happened to be able to chase the dream that every kid has of being able to play DI basketball.”

Huntsberry said he was scared to enter the transfer portal after his single season at Mary but ended up receiving more than 20 offers. He summed up his reasoning for choosing North Texas in two words —  “they win.” 

In his first game with the Mean Green, Huntsberry was the team’s second leading scorer with 20 points and was a key factor in lifting the team to a 53-47 victory.

“Even though I made mistakes, the team was just rallying behind me and trusting in me,” Huntsberry said. “I feel like without them I would not have been able to play good at all. They just gave me a lot of confidence in myself to keep trying to make things happen.”

Senior guard Kai Huntsberry take a shot over an oncoming defender in a game against Fresno State on Nov.  20, 2022.
Photo by Marco Barrera

A short-handed North Texas team with the absence of senior guard Tylor Perry and junior guard Rubin Jones put more on Huntsberry’s shoulders early in the season, which coach Grant McCasland said he handled well. 

“It is hard to go out there and have confidence when you still got a long way to go, and I just give him a lot of credit because he keeps putting himself right back in the middle,” McCasland said. “That is what I love about him — he is resilient.”

In the Baha Mar Hoops tournament in The Bahamas last week, Huntsberry put up 53 total points over the three games, which was the second most in the tournament. He has been a starter in all seven games of the season and has averaged 12.7 points per game.

The path to success did not come without adversity for Huntsberry. He said building confidence has been a major factor in his development. 

“I had really bad confidence issues when it came to basketball,” Huntsberry said. “I really did not believe in myself early on. I feel like my whole battle when it came to basketball was full with adversity, but I feel like that made me love basketball too.”

Transferring to the Marauders for the 2021-22 season helped Huntsberry on the court and mentally. He said his coaches at Mary instilled the confidence he has in himself today. 

“They believed in me more than I believed in myself,” Huntsberry said. “That season [at Mary] was really a big season for me mentally. They made me understand things about myself and made me push through all of my confidence struggles. I felt free and I felt able to just go out and play.”

A key component of Huntsberry’s game is staying positive and level-headed. Despite hardships, he said he tries to maintain a good attitude for his team.

“He is always happy, smiling, positive, giving us motivation and being a good leader,” sophomore guard Aaron Scott said. “He has come out strong. He is shooting, not being passive, and that is just what we want from him.” 

Huntsberry said his parents inspire him to maintain a positive outlook. 

“I have always loved helping people and I just feel like I can be the bright spot, no matter what I am going through,” Huntsberry said. “So if I can make somebody else smile, that means the world to me. I hold myself accountable of my attitude and I try to make sure that I can spread the positivity, even if somebody is having a bad day.”

McCasland said he loves Huntsberry’s “outlook on life.” Talent wise, McCasland described him as a physical guard capable of making perimeter shots and attacking the basket.

“He loves people, he has high energy, and you can tell he really wants to get better and is excited to be here,” McCasland said. “You can tell he is trying to stay positive and make it through the tough times, and I appreciate anybody that is willing to keep coming out here and competing even when things are not going well.”

Huntsberry hopes to continue his momentum from the Baha Mar Hoops tournament and be a leader on and off the court. 

“My goal is to strive to be better than I was yesterday,” he said. “If I can continue to do that, we will win a lot of games here.”

Featured Image: Senior guard Kai Huntsberry dribbles the ball past half court on Nov. 20, 2022. Photo by Marco Barrera

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Jillian Nachtigal

Jillian Nachtigal

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