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Basketball: Reaching rare air – Senior makes second state championships

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, March 8, 2017
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Reaching the state tournament or meet is a goal that only a handful of Texas’ thousands of athletes accomplish each year.

Getting to state championships in two sports in the same year is an even rarer feat, especially at the 5A level. It’s rare company that Northwest senior starting point guard Tucker Dunn will join Thursday night. A few months after running in the state cross country meet, he will take the floor for the 5A semifinal in the University Interscholastic League basketball championships at the Alamodome in San Antonio

RISING TO OCCASION – Northwest senior point guard Tucker Dunn helped the Texans to the state tournament after an all-tournament performance at regionals this weekend. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Dunn and the Texans take on Fort Bend Marshall at 8:30 p.m. for a chance to play for a state title in what has been a memorable year for the Rhome resident.

“This senior year has definitely been one to remember. I’ve done a lot, not just sports wise but academically,” said Dunn, who was a yell leader at football games in the fall and was nominated for the homecoming court.

“I feel like a leader at this school, and that’s a really good feeling.”

Before the unique year started, Dunn had never ran cross country and only played a handful of varsity basketball games.

He decided to run cross country on the encouragement of a friend that ended up moving to Colorado.

“I’ve always known I was good at long distance,” Dunn said. “I wanted to get in shape for my last year of basketball, so I decided why not go run cross country and get in better shape.”

Reaching the state cross country meet was not on Dunn’s mind when he started. When the Texans captured the District 6-5A title, he realized it was a very real possibility.

“I was just out there running. Once we got first at district, I was like ‘Wow, we do have a shot to go to state,'” Dunn said.

After finishing 14th at the district meet in 17:22, Dunn turned in the best two performances of his career at regionals and state. He ran 16:49 at regionals and a personal best 16:33 in Round Rock at the state meet.

“What a gamer,” said Northwest cross country coach Josh Allen. “His best race of the season was at state where he ran a 5K PR.

“He’s coachable – a leader full of positive energy. To have no high school cross country experience and to have his best races at regionals and state is beyond impressive. I wish he wasn’t a senior.”

After cross country, he quickly joined the Texans on the court. With the graduation of several key seniors from last year, Dunn knew the opportunity was open for him to prove himself.

He quickly meshed with several other players moving into key roles for the Texans.

“We graduated a lot of seniors last year. Three or four of them started,” Dunn said. “Most of the guys that start now, I played with last year [on JV].”

He quickly established himself as a leader on the defensive end of the floor with his tireless effort and ability to hound opposing guards.

“He’s our best defender,” said Northwest coach Mike Hatch. “He leads the team with 28 charges drawn. He’s just tough.”

Dunn credits the experience of running cross country with helping him on defense, especially late in games.

“My endurance from cross country definitely plays a part in that,” Dunn said. “Cross country taught me a new mindset. I always try as hard as I can and always want to get better.”

His teammates appreciate his energy and gritty play.

“He pushes me a lot in practice,” said Northwest leading scorer Avery Anderson, who shares the backcourt with Dunn. “If we’re slacking, he gets us going. He’s a good teammate.

“He’s a good point guard. He distributes the ball well.”

On a team with offensive weapons like Anderson, one of the top sophomores in the state, and Julien Smith, Dunn has picked his spots to call his own number.

“I’ve had to do it at the right moments – be patient and when my time comes, my time comes,” Dunn said.

One of those moments came in the region semifinal. With two of the team’s leading scorers fouled out, Dunn helped the Texans fight back from down six to win in overtime. Dunn sealed the win with two free throws for part of his 10 points and four assists.

In the region final, he scored 12 points and again hit the game-sealing free throws. He earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

“He had a great tournament,” Hatch said. “As far as scoring, he’d not scored a lot in the first three playoff games, but this weekend he was phenomenal.

“He’s a heck of a competitor – one tough cat mentally. Every day is a new day and if he has one bad play, he quickly moves on.”

As memorable as this year’s been, he’s not satisfied with just reaching a second state championship. He wants to bring home a title.

“I don’t want to get too excited because we’re going to state. I want to win the whole thing,” Dunn said.

And recalling that he wasn’t crowned homecoming king, he’s not ruling out more crowns after basketball.

“Maybe I got a chance at prom,” Dunn cracked.

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