By Brian Yauger
If all goes as planned, Youngstown State University hasn’t seen the last of Mary Dunn in a basketball uniform.
Dunn’s season ended in November when she tore her right meniscus in the game against Eastern Michigan University, where she scored 30 points against the Eagles. She had averaged 17 points in the four games she played.
The condition of the 6-foot-3-inch senior out of Washington, Pennsylvania, was up in the air for a while, but she was confirmed to be out for the year. Dunn is already eyeing a return to the court next season by applying for a medical redshirt.
“I’m really excited,” she said about the chance for one more year. “Initially, I was really upset [about the injury] and it took me a while to get over that, but I really do believe that it’s all in God’s plan. I’d get a second chance at [my senior year], so hopefully it gets approved.”
The process for applying for a medical redshirt is pretty cut and dry. The NCAA needs documentation of the injury and the games missed to determine if the injury actually was season ending.
“We can’t apply for it until after the season ends,” Dunn said. “It’s basically just like a journal of everything to prove that it was season ending, which my injury was, and you have to play in eight or less games, and I only played in four.”
Recovering from a meniscus injury isn’t easy. Dunn was a little behind her planned schedule but now realizes she needs to take it slow and make sure she’s fully recovered before she gets back on the court.
“I mean, initially, it was a little slower than I wanted it to because my first goal was to come back this year, but that ended up not working out,” Dunn said. “So now, I’m just taking it day-by-day and getting back to 100% soon.”
The recovery process is arduous, but Dunn sees the light at the end of the tunnel quickly approaching.
“It just takes time. I think that’s the biggest thing,” she said. “I’m going to start running next week, which will be really awesome because then I can start feeling like myself again. My goal is to be 100% by April.”
The benefit of returning next year is that Dunn will have one more year to play with the junior class she’s spent so much time with, especially McKenah Peters and Chelsea Olson. The Penguins roster next year has her even more excited about possibly returning.
“We’ll have everyone back plus three new players, which will be super awesome. … With the experience that the younger players are getting plus us who would be seniors, as long as it gets approved, it’s going to be a really good year,” Dunn said.
The time off the court has given Dunn the chance to reflect, and she has altered her plans after graduation.
“As long as [the medical redshirt] gets approved, I’m going to come back here next year and play, and I’m going to get my master’s in professional communications,” Dunn said. “I’m not sure if I want to play overseas or not. That’s in my options, but I’m not 100% sure. I want to eventually get my doctorate in communications and become a professor and researcher.”
Dunn has always been a leader, but has enjoyed being able to lead without stressing about how well she’s playing.
“I definitely think that I’ve always been a strong leader, but there’s always been a part of me that’s worried about the way that I’m playing, which is what you have to do in sports, like you have to hold yourself accountable,” she said.
“Being able to fully put myself into the team and eliminate what I’m doing, how I’m playing and have the same attitude every day, I think really helps and shows that if I want to be a coach, I could definitely do that,” Dunn added.
This time on the bench has made Dunn consider the possibility of coaching when she’s decided to call it a career.
“I would prefer playing for sure,” she said. “But eventually I’m not going to be able to play anymore, and I think that at least, like, getting a grad assistant position or something, so I can do it for a couple years would be awesome.”
Whatever the next year holds for the Penguins’ post, you can guarantee she’ll be facing any adversity with a smile on her face and the determination to push past it.