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‘He came and changed the culture’: Jerry Hunter has built a winning program at Westside

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:12 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - In the final practice before their first-round playoff game, Westside head coach Jerry Hunter watches his players go through their usual warmups. The former championship-winning coach at Laney is now in his third season with the Patriots, and they’re having their best season yet.

He’s wearing a black Westside shirt with white block letters on the back, visible from everywhere in the gym.

“LOCKED IN”

After the opening drills, Hunter calls his guys over to the bleachers. He introduces Marvin Fields, the winningest coach in Westside history. Fields speaks to the team as all eyes are on the man whose name is proudly displayed on the wall of the new gym.

This team is locked in.

The year before Hunter took over, the Patriots went just 8-18, losing in the first round of the region tournament. Quantavious Bryant was a freshman on that team.

“He just came and changed the culture,” said Bryant, now a senior. “He didn’t care who you was, how good you was, nothing like that. If you didn’t do what he told you to do, hit the door.”

There’s been a steady improvement in the three years since Hunter took over. The Patriots went 13-11 in his first year, 17-7 last season, and are off to a 23-3 start this year.

“The mindset has to change,” said Hunter. “When we came here, we kind of sat down and got a feel for things. They bought into the mindset.”

One of the biggest obstacles for Westside has been Butler High School. Coming into this year, the Patriots hadn’t beaten the Bulldogs since February of 2018. Butler won the first two meetings of this season: a 50-49 win at Westside and a 74-52 win at Butler. The two met for a third time in the region championship, and it was Westside who came out on top, winning 52-38.

“They’ve been a thorn in our side since my freshman year,” said junior Khalon Hudson. “That got us over a hump. That really set us apart. We can actually do what we came here to do and be who we say we are.”

Hunter added the Patriots are playing their best basketball as they get ready for the state playoffs.

With just under 24 hours until their first-round game against Jeff Davis, the Patriots are locked in.

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