Kellen Dunham Has Become Butler’s Next StarPosted by Jonathan Batuello on December 16th, 2013
It’s time we all start to think about a certain player as a star. It should be no surprise what school he comes from, because it’s a school we all routinely seem to underrate. But with Butler’s Kellen Dunham going off for a game-high 25 points in the Crossroads Classic against Purdue on Saturday, there’s no excuse for continuing to ignore the talented sophomore guard.
Coming into the season, Dunham wasn’t a player that many pundits had on their radar screens as a potential star. He was certainly a good shooter, but not someone thought of as a future do-everything guy. In fact, he wasn’t even supposed to be the best player on his own team, and that’s even taking into account the injury to Roosevelt Jones. Khyle Marshall was that guy, but it has instead been Dunham who has become the primary scoring threat for the Bulldogs this season, and on Saturday versus Purdue he solidified himself as Butler’s alpha dog and one of the best in the new Big East.
Against Purdue, Dunham was routinely hounded and it didn’t matter. Terone Johnson, who drew the task of defending Dunham, said after the game that the Boilers centered their prep on slowing him down. This was most noticeable in that Purdue bumped him, forced him to go different routes, and generally did everything within the new rules scheme to make his life uncomfortable. As a result, Dunham shot the ball from awkward positions, on stepback jumpers, with just inches of space, and drives toward the basket for a solid 8-of-16 shooting night. Perhaps most impressive about his game-high 25 points is that he did it without relying on his long-range prowess to score (2-of-4 from distance). As Dunham said after the game, “They made it pretty difficult on me. They tried to limit what direction I was going, forcing me to the baseline and things like that. I thought Purdue did a tremendous job on me. Every shot was really tough to make.”
Even with Purdue forcing him away from his strengths, Dunham still controlled the game, and at this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise. The Crossroads Classic was just another in a line of strong performances he has contributed this season. So far this season, he is averaging a robust 19.3 PPG and 4.1 RPG while shooting an astounding 47.6 percent from three-point range, which is actually better than he shoots overall from the field (43.8%). In context, that makes his output of 25 points without utilizing his core strength look even better.
It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that as Dunham has outdone his own expectations, so too has Butler. Coming into the season the Bulldogs were believed to be a bottom-of-the-league Big East team. Now at 8-2 with a few top 100 wins but no marquee ones, the Bulldogs find themselves in the conversation for an NCAA berth and a top-half league finish. Marshall and his 118.0 Offensive Rating has been outstanding, and Dunham has been superb, but Butler has continued to find contributions from reserves and play well as a team. It’s just another year of the “Butler Way” continuing, no matter what coach or players are around. As we hit the turn of the year and season and start to see more references to Butler in the national conversation, let’s not forget to add Kellen Dunham to the list of this year’s breakout players.