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Basketball: Burgin's Dunford filling it up

February 07, 2007|MIKE MARSEE

It took Daniel Dunford only one game this season to prove he could be the scorer Burgin was looking for.

It will take him a little longer to prove he can do other things as well, but that's just what he wants to do.

The sophomore guard says he wants to continue to work to become a better all-around player as he gets older. For now, he has become the Bulldogs' leading scorer in his second varsity season, providing a young team in need of offensive leaders with a reliable scoring source.

"I knew that we had lost a lot of players and somebody would have to step up," Dunford said. "I just want to step up and be a leader and help the team win a couple more games."

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Dunford took the first step in Burgin's first game. He dropped 38 points on St. Francis, hitting 15 of 31 shots from the field, including five 3-pointers, to lead the Bulldogs to a 74-67 win.

"I was ready to get the season (started) off," Dunford said.

Dunford got a pat on the back from his coach, Don Irvine, after that performance in Louisville, but he also got a word of caution.

"He was telling me not to get full of myself," Dunford said. "He said, 'That's an awesome game, but don't let it get to you.'"

Of course, Dunford hasn't matched that game since. But he has had other big games: 27 points here, 25 there, 21 somewhere else.

"That 38-point game really let me know what I could do the rest of the season," he said.

Dunford is averaging 17 points per game, and Irvine said that average would be near 20 had he not had a couple of scoreless games along the way.

Effective from the outside

He is shooting 42 percent from the field, and he remains effective from the outside. He went 5-for-5 from 3-point range in a win over Berea last month that he said was the team's best game to date.

But he said Irvine reminds him virtually every day not to rely too much on perimeter shooting.

"We tell him not to fall in love with his jump shot," Irvine said.

"He and (assistant) coach (Tim) Abbott, they pretty much told me to slow down and look to penetrate and draw fouls," Dunford said. "That and (play better) defense."

Irvine said he knows Dunford will be able to do more as he matures, and he'll come to expect it soon enough.

"He's athletic enough; we need him down the road to handle the ball, to rebound and to play good defense," Irvine said.

The Burgin coach said the 6-1 1/2 Dunford, who said he weighs roughly 160 to 165 pounds, will do more of those things as he gets stronger.

"I think when he gets a little bit stronger and the ballgame slows down for him, I think he'll keep getting better and better," Irvine said.

Things to work on

Dunford said he'll be working on his strength and skills in earnest in the coming offseason as he makes basketball his sole athletic focus for the first time. He played baseball through middle school and played soccer for the last two seasons, but he has given both sports up to concentrate on hoops.

"This summer I'm going to be working with people who do that (strength training) and working on basketball all summer," he said. "Probably all summer I'll be in the gym 24/7 to try to improve my game."

Dunford earned plenty of playing time as a freshman, shooting well in some early-season games and starting for much of the year. He said that's one of the advantages of playing at a smaller school like Burgin as opposed to a larger school.

"Athletics-wise, you get opportunities that other schools don't," he said. "At Burgin, you get the opportunity to show who you are as a freshman and sophomore, to get out there and do your best."

Dunford said he draws inspiration from Kevin Durant, who stars for his favorite college team, the Texas Longhorns.

"I can look up to him as being a young player making an impact," said Dunford, who moved with his family from El Paso, Texas, when he was in the first grade.

Dunford is part of a strong sophomore class - including three starters - that hopes to turn the Bulldogs' fortunes around in the next two years. This year's team has only a couple of upperclassmen, so the younger players know they're working toward the future.

"Coach has told us he wants us to win, but he knows we're not expected to. Everybody's looking forward to even next year," Dunford said.

Thanks to their six years of experience together and a successful eighth-grade campaign, Dunford said expectations are high for their junior and senior seasons. But for now, they're taking their lumps.

"This basketball season has been a real rollercoaster, up and down," he said. "We're getting the experience we need."

And even though the losses are mounting - Burgin won only six games last year and is 6-12 this season - Dunford said he and his classmates are having fun as they get that experience.

"You can't really not have fun doing this," he said.



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