Web Editorial Associate
From his time in high school to his rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kris Dunn’s life has been filled with ups and downs.
We take a look at Dunn’s storied journey to achieving his dream of playing professional basketball.
Dunn grew up with his older brother John in New London, Conn., where he quickly learned a love for the game of basketball.
“I always wanted to play with the older guys and one day my brother (and his friends) didn’t have enough to play 5-on-5 so they finally put me in. I was actually handling my own out there,” Dunn said. “I was a lot faster than guys and I didn’t shoot that much when I was young. All I did was bring them to half court, talk smack and make them come out and guard me and then I’d go right by them for the layup.”
At one point during their upbringing, the two brothers lived on their own and found themselves in need of money. Dunn started playing other kids 1-on-1 to raise money for he and his older brother. That’s when Dunn realized he had a gift.
“God gave me a gift when I was little. I was taller than kids, I had more speed,” Dunn said. “I just had the instinct because of football. I brought my football skills to basketball and it helped me out when I was a little kid.”
Dunn went on to create quite the resume in his four years at New London High School. During his senior season, Dunn averaged 31.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while also being named a McDonald’s All-American, Jordan All-American, Parade All-American and Gatorade State Player of the Year.
“My senior year when I made the McDonald’s game and the Jordan Classic, that was a big achievement not only for me, but for my family and my city,” Dunn said. “It being the first time being a McDonald’s All-American from my high school, so that kind of opened my eyes right then and there.”
All of those accomplishments led Dunn to be ranked the No. 2 point guard in the nation by ESPN.com and the No. 1 point guard by Rivals.com, while receiving offers from numerous Division 1 colleges.
But instead of bolting to the first top tier, big name college that offered Dunn, he stayed close to home.
Dunn ended up committing to Providence College, a drive about an hour northeast of his hometown of New London.
There was one main reason for Dunn staying close to home: loyalty.
“I build my relationships and my life off of loyalty and trust and that’s what New London brought to me. They brought the love, the loyalty and I felt like if I went away, I could never come back,” Dunn said. “I loved the teammates that I had, the coaching staff and I love the city. Loyalty is everything to me.”
Dunn went on to play for coach Ed Cooley and the Friars, where he added to his stellar resume.
“That’s my guy. I love coach Cooley. Since I was a freshman, he’s always been real, he’s always been loyal to me. We come from the same background, so it made it a lot easier,” Dunn said. “He’s a great coach. I think he is underestimated. He does a lot for the players, he does a lot for the team, so that’s my guy and will always be my guy.”
During his time at Providence, Dunn was faced with another hard time. In the middle of his sophomore season, Dunn suffered with a season-ending shoulder injury that brought his season to a halt. About a week later, he got news that his mother passed away at the age of 50.
“I think about it every day,” Dunn said. “I went through a lot in my four-year career, but it just shows the type of person that I am and the people that I have around me to battle through it.”
After his junior season at Providence, Dunn had a decision to make – whether he would forgo his senior year to pursue his childhood dream of playing in the NBA or return to Providence for a fourth year.
Many people told Dunn he should make that jump, including his college coach. But Dunn wasn’t ready to leave and returned for his fourth and final year with the Friars.
“It was definitely a tough decision, but I always go with my heart and always go with my instincts and felt like I needed to come back for one more year,” Dunn said. “I wanted to finish school. I owed that to my family, I owed that to my sister. I tried to be a good role model and I owed that to the school because they have done so much for me. . . Providence College was an amazing school for me. Not just for basketball, but in the classroom, the people around there and the city.”
In his senior season, Dunn went on to have one of his most successful seasons, averaging 16.4 points, 6.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. He went on to enter the NBA Draft, where he was finally able to accomplish his dream.
Rookie Season In Minnesota
Dunn was drafted by the Wolves with the No. 5 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, joining a young, exciting NBA team.
With his journey to the NBA in his mind, Dunn said hearing his name at the NBA Draft was one of the best moments of his life.
“That was probably one of the biggest accomplishments that I’ve ever had,” he said.
Dunn, who entered the league at 22 years old, was excited to bring his energy and defensive skillset to Minnesota.
“He brings a lot of the characteristics that we’re looking for,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said in Dunn’s introductory press conference. “A hard-working, smart, driven, big-time winner, the type of person that can unite and inspire your team, makes everyone around him better. Of course, the way he plays, his defense, his rebounding, his ability to get to the line, ability to make plays, very good in pick-and-rolls and his size. . .More importantly, it’s the type of person that he is and that’s why we feel that he will be a great fit for us.”
Through 73 games of his rookie season, Dunn has averaged 3.8 points, 2.3 assists, 2.2 rebounds and one steal in 17.1 minutes per game.
“You can see it my rookie year, there’s going to be some ups and downs. I knew that, my family knew that, but during my life I’ve been going through ups and downs. I was unfortunate to go through a rough path early on in my life with me and my brother and my mom passing away. The downs, you just have to battle through it. That’s what I’m doing on the court. I might not get the minutes that I want, I might not make the shots that I make, but you just have to fight through it.
“The best thing you can do as a rookie as just learn the best you can.”
To this point, Dunn’s life has been quite the story. But as far as his basketball career comes, he feels his story is just beginning.
“People don’t understand the time and effort we put into this. A lot of high school games, a lot of AAU games, college, I basically put my whole life into this,” he said. “Getting to the NBA was probably the best day, now it’s time to stay here. . . I’m glad to be here and glad to be a Wolf.”