The name Andrew Hunter is synonymous with the professional basketball world in Canada. In a playing career that took him to over 40 different countries, he won the ‘Most Valuable Player’ award four times, awarded Sports Person of the Year and inducted into Jean Vanier’s Hall of Fame in 2012. Competing in countries from Lebanon to Switzerland, he accumulated over 1000 points in the NCAA College Basketball leagues.
But the athletic scholar is considering hanging up his trainers, for the time being anyway, to pursue a business career. Before March of 2012, Andrew was still shooting hoops in a professional capacity, training 3-4 hours per day. Flash forward to March 2013, and he was wrapping up his MBA from Henley Business School. “To be honest it wasn’t a conscious decision, I had a personal event which occured tthat altered the course of my career,” he said of taking a year off from his illustrious basketball career.
“I have been looking to pursue an MBA for the last three-four years. I got into a few different business schools but I kept getting contracts to go and play.” The former Reading Rockets forward turned down offers from Durham University Business School and Heriott Watt at Edinburgh. It was only in 2012, when he received the Daily Telegraph scholarship, that he finally signed up to the program at Henley Business School in Reading, England. “For me it was a great fit,” he said. “I had spoken to a number of senior executives in Canada and they speak highly of Henley.”
It must have been a huge challenge switching from a professional sports career into the world of business administration, and “learning the language, the concepts” was difficult, Andrew admits. But the biggest problem he faced was balancing all his assignments at once, on the “intense” full-time, 12-month program. “The challenge was managing the competing priorities in terms of assignments,” he said.
“Playing professional basketball, you generally practice 3-4 hours a day. So switching from that lifestyle to one that was more demanding was the biggest challenge for me. It wasn’t difficult understanding some of the ideas because I’ve always been curious about how businesses operate and how decisions are made at the managerial and board level."
Far from staying away from the world of hoops and courts, Andrew actually founded his own Sports Recruitment and IT Consulting company, Huntera Enterprises, back in 2006. Andrew heads the independent firm that supports aspiring athletes' transition from life as a student to life as a professional athlete. The Huntera Sports Services arm of the business conducts workshops to provide mentorship to over 1500 youths across the world and has negotiated contracts on behalf of over 50 top athletes for positions on various professional sports franchises.
Andrew’s vision was to creatively utilize sports as a tool to promote academic achievement and excellence. His father, part of an “entrepreneurial family”, ran a construction company and Andrew wanted to follow in his footsteps and do something on his own. “It’s about giving back to society and providing youth with opportunities,” he said.
“Basketball was my passion from the age of 12 and while I played professionally overseas, young players inquire regarding how to get their professional careers started. So I thought this would be a good idea for a business in order to assist young players. It’s a win-win.”
The IT Consultancy wing of Huntera Enterprises was borne out of Andrew’s interest in computer science. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in the subject from Sacred Heart University in 2002. The company provides support to SMEs in North America and Europe. “When I had the opportunity to play professional basketball, my IT had taken a back seat,” he said. But before his playing career, he was offered an internship at Bell Canada, Mobile computing.
In July 2010, four years after Huntera’s founding, Andrew somehow found the time to work as a Marketing Manager for USC Freiburg Basketball Club in Germany for over two years. He executed a youth program to promote the importance of sports and academics, which led to improved student attendance and performance. “In terms of signing players in Basketball, the busiest time of the year is the summer time, the off-season,” he explained. “That’s the busiest time for my partner and I.
“Once we get to September and October, players are usually set where they will be playing for the rest of the season.”
Andrew says the biggest challenge he has faced running his own company is building its reputation in Canada. “For me, it was about understanding who the players are, their character, their values and picturing how that would fit within a different team or country, because I wanted to avoid sending them somewhere they didn’t fit and as a result not perform well,” he said.
“The reputation of my company is affected by that so it’s about vetting each player and really understanding what drives them. The number one advice I gave athletes was: work hard, be professional and be culturally aware."
Andrew’s ambition now is not profit. He is in the business of helping aspiring athletes succeed, much like he did with Basketball in Canada. “I see it as helping youth, not as a pure business,” he said. “Having it (Huntera Enterprises) is a way of giving back to my community; it’s a tool to help young athletes.
“It’s more of a vehicle for mentorship. On a day to day basis I want to use it as a way of giving back and helping players understand the importance of acedmic performance."
Andrew doesn’t rule out a return to his playing days, “it was a good time to take a year off at the very least and I’m a bit undecided,” he added, but aside from helping other athletes, he has his sights firmly fixed on a career in business. “Basketball has given me a lot in my life,” he said. “I’m excited about my prospects in business. I’m looking at roles within the banking, auto manufacturing industries as well as the Commercial Real Estate industry."
If Andrew Hunter, Basketball star, is half as successful in Real Estate, banking or auto manufacturing as he has been at Basketball, he will surely go far.