Sunday, January 8, 2012
Future Friar Dunn captivates Warwick crowd
By Brendan Hall
WARWICK, R.I. -- With a bounce in his step and genuine grin in his visage, Kris Dunn reveled in the post-game mini-mob of cameraphones and autograph seekers at CCRI-Warwick's gym, all looking to get a piece of the kid that just put on a clinic.
Some shy away from the constant attention. Then there's Dunn, who seems to bask in the attention and -- if tonight's game was any indication -- saves his best performances for the biggest stage.
"Actually, it's a great feeling," the Providence signee and nation's No. 2 point guard smiled, when asked about the signage requests. "It kinda feels like you're in the NBA, just seeing kids that look up to you, you're kind of their hero a little bit. It's a great feeling for me."
Local pride at stake? Sure. But when it boiled down, this was what the 1,000-plus on hand at CCRI-Warwick's gymnasium had come to see: this 6-foot-3 gazelle of a point guard, considered by some as New England's top college prospect, as pure a scorer some say you'll find in the Northeast.
Darting around at a pace that was at once breakneck and breathtaking, New London's All-Everything leader did not disappoint. Tonight's game was billed as a matchup between two heavyweights, with the defending CIAC Class L champs going up against defending RIIL champ St. Raphael and its junior point guard Charles Correa -- a 5-foot-8 waterbug considered the Ocean State's top junior, and with Division 1 interest beginning to take root.
Running the point on offense and manning the post on defense, Dunn racked up 32 points, 22 rebounds, four steals and four assists, as the Whalers won going away, 66-55.
But it wasn't just the way Dunn ran up court, it was the way he ran with authority that had so many in the stands cheering him on tonight; had so many recruiting analysts throwing praise over the last nine months; and had even one nationally-respected analyst calling him the Friars' most important backcourt recruit since God Shammgod.
Over and over on the defensive end, Dunn would spring towards the rim, grab the loose ball and immediately turn up court with a full head of steam. Rinse and repeat at the other end, where Dunn picked up 12 offensive rebounds on the night.
St. Raphael head coach Tom Sorrentine tried everything to slow him down -- full court man-to-man, traps at halfcourt, zone defenses, bringing his bigs up to the foul line to cut him off. But for most of the night, the Saints had to resort to physically trying to force him to a dead stop, picking up plenty of fouls along the way.
Dunn went to the line for a total of 20 free throw attempts, hitting 16 of them. Most of the trips to the line came from fouls on the floor.
"You gotta try and get the ball out of his hands," Sorrentine said. "And he's a great passer, too. He's tough. He turned the whole game around. I mean, he just makes you do things that you're not used to doing."
Playing all but the last two minutes tonight, Dunn appeared visibly fatigued at times -- all that jumping will do that to you. But he says he was prepared for the physical tone of tonight's game.
"I was in the weight room during the summer, and during the football season, so I was ready for something like this," Dunn said. "You've just got to keep going."
Maybe this should come as no surprise that Dunn manned the safety spot during the fall-- "strong safety, so I'm coming up to hit," he added with a chuckle.
When asked to make a comparison, Sorrentine barely let the reporter finish his sentence before calling upon former Friars great Marshon Brooks, a first-round pick last June who's currently playing for the New Jersey Nets.
"I think he's just like Marshon. He's long, he gets to where he wants to go," Sorrentine said. "He can get by you, know what I mean? You can think that you're covering him, and next thing you know he's by you. He's got those long legs, long arms...typical Marshon for me. That's what I said the first time I saw him [last season, a 100-72 loss to New London]."
And to think, this was a matchup that nearly wasn't. Over the summer, Dunn reportedly transferred to Wilbraham & Monson Academy, a prep school in Western Massachusetts, where he was set to team up with close friend Andre Drummond. But after a talk with his family, and a late-summer bolt to UConn by Drummond, Dunn returned to New London; and with his return, the Whalers are a favorite to repeat as state champions.
Seeing all this before him -- the sellout capacity crowd, the ooh's and aah's, the post-game crowds -- Dunn was asked if the return to New London has been worth it.
And as usual, he couldn't hide his emotions.
"Most definitely," he smiled. "This is all where it started, when I was a freshman. The New London community has always shown me love, ever since I was a freshman, so I just want to keep it going, and show my people that I'm going to show love back to them."