BY JOHN McALEAVEY | When Providence College Junior Kris Dunn announced that he was coming back to school for another year of college basketball, more than a few eyebrows were raised. That is because his play on the floor during his first fully healthy season of competition at PC was so good. Most of the prognosticators just assumed he would declare for the NBA Draft. The thought was that although he didn’t have much of a track record, his combination of size, speed, length, and athleticism were enough for plenty of teams picking in the first round to select him. Well, Kris Dunn is not like most young hoop stars who cannot wait to get to the “The League”. He felt he had more to accomplish in Rhode Island; and not all of it was on the hardwood.
Following a stellar career at New London High School in New London, CT, Dunn shocked many when he chose Providence in the first place. Yet, the McDonald’s All-American had forged a very close bond with then Fairfield University coach, Ed Cooley, who was chasing Dunn for his Stags program. When Cooley, a Providence native, was hired to coach his hometown team; he used that relationship to beat all of the big boys (Louisville, Connecticut, etc.) for Dunn’s signature.
In 2012, Kris arrived in Friartown poised to become their next great point guard, like Vinnie Ernst, Ernie DiGregorio, Billy Donovan, Eric Murdock, and God Shammgod. Unfortunately, before the season even started (July), Dunn had to have surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum. He missed the first nine games of the season, eventually appearing in twenty-five, but never at his optimal best. After a strong spring and summer of training, Kris was primed for a breakout sophomore season. However, in an exhibition game while diving for a loose ball, another player fell on his shoulder and re-injured it. After trying to play through the pain for four games, Dunn opted for his second surgery on the same shoulder, where this time screws were inserted. Ahead, another grueling rehab, which begged the question, would we ever see the real Kris Dunn?
Since he barely played his first two seasons, people began to forget about him. I’m reminded of the famous quote here: “Good things come to those who wait”, because last season he re-introduced himself to the country by putting together an excellent year (15.6 points per-game, 7.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.7 steals). Along the way, he was named Co-Big East Player of the Year; and more importantly, lead PC to its second straight NCAA tournament appearance. Following all of that came his surprising decision to stay. He came back in part because of academics. He is set to earn a degree in May; and because he felt he was just not ready for professional basketball and its demands both on and off the court. At the time Kris said, “I knew I had to develop my game. I don’t want to just go in the NBA and just be there”. Coach Cooley and Friar fans everywhere (me included) did back flips! Well, fast forward to this year. As of Monday, Providence College is ranked #10 in the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 rankings. It is the first time the Friars have been in the top 10 since 1978; and once again, the 6-4, 220 pound Dunn has his fingerprints all over it with 16.5 points, 7.3 assists, 6.1 rebounds, 3.2 steals per game. Big East Conference play begins on New Year’s Eve when PC will take on #9 Butler in Indiana. There is a ton left to do, but so far Kris’s decision/gamble looks like a good one. He is a sure fire first-team AA, and is squarely in the conversation for the Wooden Award. Accolades like this almost assuredly will have him coming off the NBA board within the first five picks. After all he has been through, I’d say that’s a job well Dunn.
And that is My 2 Sense for this week. For all of the good folks here at More Sports Now, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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