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How Texas guard Tyrese Hunter’s grandmother influenced his life, basketball

AUSTIN (KXAN) – As the Texas men’s basketball eyes another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, they’ll rely on a number of key veterans. One of those vets, Tyrese Hunter, is used to postseason success.

This is Hunter’s second season with the Longhorns and third go around . In his freshman season with Iowa State, Hunter helped the Cyclones reach the Sweet 16.

That run for Iowa State was particularly notable considering the program was coming off a 2-22 season. Annie Williams, Hunter’s grandmother, was in the stands for that special run.

“My freshman year going through the tournament, how much love she got from Iowa State fans,” Hunter said about his grandmother being there to watch the NCAA Tournament. “That meant a lot to her. She’d call me to talk about it every day.”

Both of Hunter’s parents passed away by the time he was in eighth grade. Grandma Annie was a massive influence on Tyrese and his 11 siblings — which included some coaching on the court.

“She always kept it old school, I don’t think she got up to the speed of the game. She didn’t like all that extra dribbling. She liked pass, pass [and] trying to find [the] open shot,” Hunter said.

The Longhorns junior guard continues to grow more appreciative of what his grandmother was able to do in helping to raise that many grandchildren.

“She made it seem like it was easy. The older I get… I just realize me coming into young adulthood… how hard it is for me. I imagine her putting all these grandchildren and children on her plate. I know it was hard.”

After Hunter’s freshman year at Iowa State, he searched for a new home. The Racine, Wisconsin native said he always wanted to live in Texas. The opportunity to play in Austin was one he and grandma were excited about.

“She asked me…did I have an extra room in my dorm room? She was up and ready to go,” Hunter said.

The first season in burnt orange was a successful one for Hunter and the Longhorns as Texas reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Throughout college, Hunter knew Grandma Annie’s health had been declining. After his sophomore season came to a close, Hunter’s beloved grandmother died.

“I lost so many people in my life. The older I get, the possibility of stuff like that happening and I always just cherish it. I call it a celebration of life. I feel like she lived her life.”

While Tyrese was working through decisions regarding his basketball future, he knew his team and, specifically, his head coach was there for him.

“Coach [Rodney Terry] came to the funeral. I didn’t know about it. I remember just looking up and seeing him there. It put so much love in my heart for coach just being there for his players off the court too. A lot of coaches say it but his actions are really behind it.”

Hunter has emerged as one of, if not, the biggest leaders on the Longhorns. His intensity and dedication is something coaches and teammates often point out. That mentality came from the woman who helped shape him as a man.

“When I’m sitting there on that bench, I’m always just repeating to myself, just be yourself. She’d always tell me whatever you do, just be yourself. Be Tyrese. I feel like it’s a big thing I repeat to myself because I know who Tyrese is deep down. She knows who Tyrese is and when I go out there and play my heart out on defense, talking, communicating leading this team. That’s the Tyrese that she knows and I want to show,” Hunter said.

The Longhorns tip off in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at 5:50 p.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina. KXAN will be on the road with Texas and have coverage throughout the week.