Friar Basketball

“20 in 60”: #4 Awaiting Dunn’s Debut


While Ed Cooley’s hiring in March of 2011 came with considerable buzz, it wasn’t until August that the buzz reached fever pitch.

Kris Dunn committed to Providence in late-August and subsequently set Friartown on fire.  Rated either the top or second overall point guard in the nation in the class of 2012 by most major services, it seemed likely that Dunn would be the school’s fourth McDonald’s All American and the first since God Shammgod in 1995.  With McDonald’s All Americans comes tremendous success at Providence.

Delray Brooks was a transfer from Indiana who played a key role in leading Providence to the Final Four in 1987, Michael Smith starred for Providence’s only Big East Championship team in 1994, and Shammgod was the tempo setter for 1997’s Elite Eight March.

Dunn’s senior season was indeed highlighted by selections to both the McDonald’s All American game and the Jordan Brand Classic.  It was a senior season that saw him average over 31 points and 10 rebounds per game in being named an all state performer for the third straight season.

It also marked the end of a meteoric rise for the New London, CT native.

Despite leading New London to a state championship as a junior, Dunn was still living under the radar a bit at the end of his junior season.  That quickly changed as he exploded on the AAU circuit that summer.  From New England to Little Rock to Las Vegas, Dunn’s dizzying summer saw his stock take off and interest from the likes of Louisville emerge, yet it was Cooley who built a bond with Dunn – one that played a critical role in his decision.

As he told ESPN’s Dave Telep at the time of his commitment, “Providence is a special place for me,” Dunn said. “I have a great connection with the coaches but most importantly with [Cooley]. He made my family and I feel at home and like we were wanted.”

Dunn is a special recruit for Providence, one who kicked off a new era of Providence basketball – the Cooley Era.  Only, Dunn will have to wait to take part in it.

Shouldering a burden

He knew he hurt his shoulder in an Eastern Connecticut Conference game against Norwich in March, but didn’t learn of the extent of the injury until he left the USA Basketball under 18 team tryouts in June to have it further examined.  An MRI showed Dunn had suffered significant damage – a torn labrum and bone fracture that would require surgery in July.

The surgery was a successful, but the recovery is lengthy.  Dunn is out of a sling now, and the hope at the time of the surgery was that he would be ready to return some time in December or January.  Cooley has repeatedly said he won’t rush Dunn back, so for the time being Providence fans are left to wonder when they can expect to see Dunn this season.

What can Providence fans expect when Dunn returns to full health?  Versatility and a rare combination of size, athleticism and explosion from the point guard position.

Dunn must have made a terrific safety at New London, as his ability to cover ground defensively is perhaps most startling the first time you see him.  At 6’3, with long arms, he has the potential to be a terrific on-ball defender, but where he was most terrifying, both on the AAU circuit with the Connecticut Basketball Club and playing in the pressing style of New London, was just how disruptive he is playing passing lanes.

He’s a willing rebounder, capable of clearing the glass and starting a break on his own, and while he’s not a three point marksman at this point in his career, his jump shot is farther along than Vincent Council’s when he came to Providence.

His role in 2012-13

Finally, Council may have someone to alleviate some of the ball handling and distributing duties if Dunn returns to health this season.  Cooley has made the point that Council was the only creator on the team a year ago, and while many will point to the sheer number of minutes he’s been forced to play as a contributing factor towards fatigue, more tiresome is the burden placed on him on a night by night basis.

Thanks to Dunn’s versatility, he can also play significant minutes at shooting guard, and considering the Friars have used Gerard Coleman and Weyinmi Efejuku at small forward in the past it would not be surprising to see him play there alongside Council and Bryce Cotton at times.  That would not be a long-term solution, as Cooley is loading up on versatile combo forwards, but in a season in which the Friars lack live bodies, Dunn’s versatility will be a huge bonus.

Given full health, Providence fans will take to Dunn early simply for the energy and speed at which he plays.  Cross-court passes will head the other way with him on the floor.

Over the long haul Dunn will step into the point guard role currently held by the league’s best passer in Council, and he steps into a less pressure-filled role than would be expected of an All American coming to Providence.  Dunn can be groomed at the point guard role in spots, while still logging big minutes playing alongside his mentor.

Looking ahead

His commitment set off a thrilling Fall for Friar fans in which the recruiting class (which soon also included Ricardo Ledo and previously consisted of Josh Fortune), the head coach, and the program received more buzz than had been seen in these parts since Ryan Gomes transformed himself into an All American in 2004.

The shoulder will be closely monitored in Providence in the upcoming weeks, and the debut of Kris Dunn will mark one of the most highly anticipated games in years.

The first McDonald’s All American to step foot on campus since 1995 is here.


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