Sometimes a change of scenery helps an athlete reach his potential.
After spending his freshman year as a bench player and averaging a handful of points per game for Ohio Christian University, former Valley player Hayden Dunn averaged 23.1 points per game — which was third highest in NCCAA Division II — albeit this time around, the sophomore found success playing for Kentucky Christian University.
“After (my freshman year), I hear God calling me to do something a little different and make a change for multiple reasons,” Dunn said.
Dunn decided to attend the same school he had visited on multiple occasions to watch his sister, Lauren Dunn, enjoy a successful volleyball career.
“She played down there and I really got a feel for the school,” Dunn said. “If I was going to go anywhere else, it was going to be a Christian school. I really got a good feel down there and decided to continue my career there.”
Once Dunn decided to transfer, the Knights’ coaching staff diligently tailored an offense to suit his strengths and the accolades were sure to follow. The NCCAA Mid-East Region Player of the Year and NCCAA Division II First Team All-American shot 53 percent in his first season with KCU.
“This offense was setup a little differently,” Dunn said. “It was setup for me to have success. I really credit the work I did my freshman year to my success. This past summer, I put on about 25 pounds working in the weight room. I worked on my game all summer.”
“Before that, I was always a two or three-sport athlete, so I didn’t focus that much on basketball. After having a year under my belt of focusing on nothing but basketball, my game has gotten a lot better. It translated to a pretty good year.”
However, before Dunn could reach his full potential, he had to work on the metal part of the game — specifically when to take a more selfish approach and look to score the tough baskets.
Playing his high-school career with the Indians, Dunn routinely had no problems scoring 15 points a game but he always scored within the confines of the offense.
“Coming from my high-school background, we all shared the ball and we had multiple guys that could score,” Dunn said. “I was never in a position, even during my high-school career, where my primary focus was to score.
“That was really different. Just having a different mind set, going out there and knowing that I’ve got to lead my guys. Going out there with the mindset that I had to score was a little bit different.”
While taking his game to the next level this past season, Dunn admitted he was often uncomfortable with the shoot-first mentality.
“It was extremely difficult because I’ve always had the confidence to shoot if I had an open shot or if I had a situation in the offense to score I would take it, but I’ve never been a guy to create my own shot,” Dunn said. “There were a lot of situations where we needed a bucket, and (the coaching staff) would tell everyone to get out of the way and tell me to go get a bucket.
“That is something that I’m not comfortable with what so ever. I’m much more of a structure in the offense type of player. I’m not use to being a little more selfish and having to take hard shots.”
Dunn credited his teammates for helping him make the transition from transfer to team leader in a short span.
“It helped that my teammates supported me and allowed me to take those tough shots,” Dunn said. “Being a transfer, it was hard to earn their respect. The first semester, I just went out and kept my head down while working as hard as I could.”
Now that his sophomore season has concluded, Dunn has begun preparations for his junior campaign. In fact, Dunn returned to the gym the day after KCU’s season reached its end.
“The day after the season ended, I was already in the gym putting shots up,” Dunn said. “I know that helped me last year, consistently being in the gym and consistently watching film. I’m already working on the things I know I need to work on.”
Dunn also believes there are good things on the horizon for the Knights.
“We have a really good chance to have a good year,” Dunn said. “We have a lot of guys coming back. In our conference and our region, we have a really good shot to do well. We’re going to have to play some really good teams, but we’re going to have a really good shot to be in the mix.
“I know we can take that next step.”