Feb. 5, 2014
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
In our latest installment of “Getting to Know…,” we chat up Butler super sophomore Kellen Dunham. Kellen tells us what movie is required viewing for all Indiana residents, why Butler is the perfect fit for him and where it is he goes when he sneaks out of his dorm room late at night.
BIGEAST.com: You hail from Pendleton Heights, Indiana. Thriving metropolis or small town Indiana?
DUNHAM: It definitely has the small-town feel but we still had enough students to be in the largest class for basketball in the state, Class 4A. I graduated with 350-380 students so it’s a pretty big school but it’s in a rural area so it does have that small-town feel to it.
BIGEAST.com: Growing up in Indiana are you a hoops fan by birth? Is it really like the “Hoosiers” movie?
DUNHAM: Growing up in this state you have to watch “Hoosiers.” I’ve watched that movie plenty of times. But my parents (Christy and Jim) have just lived and breathed basketball all my life so I think that influenced me as well. I’m in love with basketball and I’m going to have to do something with it for the rest of my life. Just the environment that Indiana provides us is one for basketball.
BIGEAST.com: So “Hoosiers” is required viewing to be a member in good standing in the state of Indiana?
DUNHAM: (Laughs) Yeah I would think so.
BIGEAST.com: You said your parents were big hoops fans when you were growing up. So did you have a favorite school that you rooted for as a kid?
DUNHAM: Not really. We were just big March Madness fans but I was kind of a local guy so I just came and watched (Butler) Coach (Brandon) Miller and Joel Cornette play in all these Butler games growing up and that’s where I grew a passion for this school. But obviously I’m an Indiana guy so I’m going to watch IU (Indiana University), Purdue and Notre Dame. I was just a college basketball fan growing up.
When you were at Pendleton High (where Kellen is the school’s all-time leading scorer) were you recruited by other Indiana schools?
DUNHAM: I picked up three offers after my sophomore year. It was Butler, Ball State and Wright State (located in Dayton, Ohio) and then I was getting recruited, but never offered, by some of the Big Ten schools. But I just thought Butler was the perfect fit.
BIGEAST.com: What was it about Butler that swayed you to become a Bulldog?
DUNHAM: Well, I grew up around here and I wanted my family to see me play a lot. They also play a very similar style to what I played in high school so I’m very comfortable in the system. And just the character and attitude that this school builds in each and every player is something that I wanted to be part of. And all the history just kind of drew me to this place. I love all my coaches, I love all my teammates, I love all the students on campus so it’s just a perfect fit for me.
BIGEAST.com: When Coach Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics head coaching position was there a little apprehension as to who the new coach would be?
DUNHAM: Yeah but I think that’s pretty natural. We were all curious about what was the next chapter in our careers. I knew Coach Stevens was a great coach but after he left I knew we were going to stay in the family and pick up another Butler guy (which Butler did in hiring former player and assistant coach Brandon Miller). We appreciate coach Miller and all he’s done. He’s part of the family.
BIGEAST.com: Tell me about these late-night shooting sessions that you have become famous for?
DUNHAM: They’re basically shooting sessions that are usually at night because it’s the only time I can find time in my schedule because I’m usually running around to class or to practice or I’m sleeping in or something. So I just like to go in (Hinkle Fieldhouse) late and workout. It’s a little confidence booster. I work a little bit on my weaknesses and I take shots I think I’m going to get in the game. I try to bring some of the younger guys in with me and try to work on things they want to work on and help with their development.
BIGEAST.com: How long do your impromptu practice sessions last?
DUNHAM: Normally they are 45 minutes to an hour. I don’t go in there to mess around. I try and challenge myself for 45 minutes to an hour.
BIGEAST.com: Has it helped improve your game?
DUNHAM: I think it does help a lot. There were a few times that I couldn’t get in there the night before a game and I didn’t shoot it as well. So I think it does give me a little confidence and a little visualization of the game, seeing where I can get some shots and confidently knock them down in the game. It’s a huge advantage for me.
BIGEAST.com: Is this something you came up with on your own or did you have people in your life who influenced you?
DUNHAM: I’ve had so many basketball influences throughout my career, people who have pushed me towards putting in extra hours and things like that. But I’d say the main three are my father, of course, my shooting coach Mark Baker as well as my high school coach, Brian Hahn. They are all very hard-working guys that believe putting in extra effort pays off in the long run. They kind of ingrained that thought in me and I’ve carried it over to college.
BIGEAST.com: So you’re a gym rat?
DUNHAM: Yeah, anything that will help me increase my knowledge of the game and increase my skills. Plus I look for anything I can pull from players, different things I see players run, how they are able to score, how they defend. I just try to learn as much as I can from my experiences.
BIGEAST.com: Are you one of those rare players that actually enjoys practice as much as games?
DUNHAM: Yeah my teammates will tease me and think I’m lying but honestly I like it. I remember even when I was in elementary school they’d be like, ‘Oh man, we got practice, I don’t want to go. I’m going to tell my mom I’m sick.’ And in the back of my mind I’d want to go to practice. I can’t wait to go. I look forward to practice still today, just getting better and seeing my teammates grow is a lot of fun for me.
BIGEAST.com: Is it accurate to say you were pushed into a leadership role because of Roosevelt Jones’ season-ending injury?
DUNHAM: Not just me individually but the team has taken on a leadership role. We hold each other accountable for what is necessary to win and I think all of my teammates have embraced that. We’ve been moving forward as far as being more competitive in practice and bringing it every day. I think it’s a huge step for me and an opportunity to kind of push my teammates, challenge my teammates every day in practice.
BIGEAST.com: How tough has it been to remain positive in an atypical Butler season so far?
DUNHAM: As easy as it would be for teams to break apart and start doing their own things and being more individualized, we have grown together even more. I feel like I play with my brothers each and every night. I really appreciate them coming together and staying together. I think it will benefit us in the long run that we’ve gone through some adversity as far as losing games and I think we can only grow from this.”