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Kellen Dunham excelling as true freshman at Butler
January 23, 2013VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Indiana
By Justin Albers
For VYPE Magazine (Central Indiana)
When Kellen Dunham arrived on the Butler campus last summer, he wasn't entirely sure what to expect. He'd been a star at the high school level, growing into one of the state's purest scorers by the end of his senior year at Pendleton Heights. Dunham averaged more than 29 points per game last season and was a finalist for Indiana's Mr. Basketball award.
But he was about to begin life on another stage at what has become one of the nation's elite programs. Dunham felt prepared to accept a lesser role and learn from Butler's veteran players. Even so, he has been somewhat shell-shocked by his role at the college level.
"In high school, it seemed like I had a bigger role as far as scoring wise and contributing in as many ways as I could," Dunham said. "In college, it's so much about trying to execute your specialties because everyone's so good. You just try to bring to the game what you do the best. That's probably the hardest part about that because I kind of want to show what I have, but it's not for the betterment of the team.
"It's a real eye-opener to realize that everyone can contribute at a high level and how much intensity each practice comes with."
It's taken Dunham some time to learn, but once he did, he began to excel.
Dunham played 29 minutes and scored 18 points in his first collegiate game against Elon on Nov. 10, and then logged 32 minutes and netted 11 points in a loss at Xavier on Nov. 13.
Through his first 14 games, Dunham is averaging 11.2 points in 27.7 minutes per game, playing 20 or more minutes in all 14 contests. The 6-foot-6 guard has also scored in all 14 games, has been in double figures in 10 of the 14, and has been named the Atlantic 10 Conference's Rookie of the Week on three occasions.
"We all knew Kellen was going to be a great player when he got here," said senior forward and Indianapolis Covenant Christian graduate Andrew Smith, Dunham's roommate for all road trips.
While Dunham has had great moments for Butler thus far – he scored 17 points and hit five 3-pointers in a Maui Invitational win against then-No. 9 North Carolina – he's also been somewhat inconsistent on the offensive end. Dunham is shooting just 31.9 percent from the 3-point line through 13 games, an average harmed by an 0-of-9 performance from beyond the arc against Illinois in the Maui championship.
Dunham is still slight in stature – he weighs just 180 pounds – and he often struggles to create enough space to get his shot off. At this point in his career, the majority of his jump shots come from running off screens.
"I think he's going to grow into that over time," said Butler coach Brad Stevens. "He can create his own shot. He can go get his own shot. He's just got to become more comfortable doing that. I think it's something that he got used to doing at the high school level, and now he's got to learn how to pick and choose his spots at the college level."
Like all freshmen around the country, Dunham is still learning what it takes to be successful at the college level. But he is ahead of many his age because of his desire to get better and his willingness to ask questions. Dunham isn't exactly a social butterfly, but he's not afraid to open his mouth when necessary.
His ability to learn and improve is a major reason he's been able to contribute to the Bulldogs so early in his career.
"He'll come to me with a question every once in a while about the personnel on the other team," Smith said, "… or he'll come to me about something in practice he doesn't quite understand. I'm happy to help because I had a lot of help when I was a freshman as well. He’s very willing to ask questions and it will help him in the long run."
"They're very similar in a lot of ways and very different in a lot of ways. Both coaches are very, very, very intelligent, almost like basketball geniuses. They have an emphasis on defense, more about defense, more about hustle plays. Also, in practice, we don't have any time where we're just kind of sitting around doing nothing. Everything's for a purpose.
"As far as differences, coach [Brian] Hahn's a little more vocal during the game; he's kind of in your face, more aggressive. And then coach [Brad] Stevens is kind of passive. He just kind of lets us figure it out and then if we need some encouragement or someone to tell us what we did wrong, he'll definitely do that too."
- Dunham on similarities and differences between Pendleton Heights coach Brian Hahn and Butler coach Brad Stevens