By Brian Yauger
“We match,” she said with a smile and then stuck her foot out, while putting our shoes side-by-side.
We were wearing the same exact shoes during the interview, just in inverse colors. The Nike PG 2.5s. If you’ve watched a game of basketball this year, you’ve seen someone wearing them.
Like many basketball players, she has an affinity for shoes, but not the shoes you may think a Division I college basketball player would own.
“I’m not too into basketball shoes,” she said. “I’m actually more into — I love Vans. That’s like my weird thing.”
This is junior Mary Dunn, the 6-foot-3-inch forward for Youngstown State University’s women’s basketball team.
Dunn received the Horizon League Player of the Week for the week of Jan. 7. During that week, she averaged a double-double with 21.5 points and 10 rebounds, while shooting .857 from the field in the Penguins two victories against Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis and the University of Illinois-Chicago.
She was also just named Horizon League Player of the Week for the week of Jan.28. This marks the second time she’s received the honor this season.
“Mary’s coming along,” Penguins coach John Barnes said following the game against UIC. “Every game she’s getting better. It’s fun to watch her develop. I think she’s had a great person to learn from in Sarah Cash and some of the older players, and she’s following in good footsteps. I’m very happy for her.”
Statistically, this is Dunn’s best season on all fronts. She’s on pace for a career high 426 points and has already surpassed her totals from her sophomore year, where she scored 219.
This tops her first year as a Penguin where she was named Horizon League Freshman of the Year. She led all conference freshmen averaging 11.3 points per game and a .514 field-goal percentage.
Dunn led the Horizon League in multiple raw totals, as well. She scored 315 points and grabbed 110 rebounds while blocking 19 shots, the best on the team that season.
“It was obviously a really big honor [being named Freshman of the Year] and I was very happy,” she said. “It was something that coming in I didn’t really to expect to get but I knew I needed to step up, and I was glad that I was able to be recognized while also just helping my teammates.”
Dunn had a brief slump during her sophomore campaign seeing her points-per-game dip to 6.8, but has come back this season better than ever, notably growing as a defensive threat.
“I think all-around I’ve grown,” Dunn said. “Especially defensively I’ve become much more of a threat on both ends of the court, and I’ve just gotten a lot faster. I’ve made a lot more moves and just all around a completely different player.”
One aspect of Dunn’s game that has really grown this season is her three-point shooting. She is shooting 8-of-19 from behind the arc and has both attempted and made more three-pointers this year than her first two years combined. That confidence has come from working over the summer.
“Over the summer it’s something me and my dad worked on a lot,” Dunn said. “Me and Coach [Andy] Crane work on it every day just because now they can’t leave me wide open. It really brings another aspect to the team too.”
Dunn’s love of the game came from her parents. While it’s always been there, the love has only grown since coming to YSU.
“Both my mom and my dad played basketball in college,” she said. “Also, my dad is a big time coach where I’m from. It’s always been a big part of my life and coming here it became the biggest part of my life.”
That love shows just as much on the court as it does off the court. During games when she’s not playing, Dunn is on the sidelines smiling and hyping her teammates up, which she said is part of her role as captain.
“I’m one of the captains of the team and I know that a lot of times it’s hard in negative situations, someone has to be the positive person,” she said. “So, regardless if we’re winning or losing, I’m always trying to hype everyone up and just be that spot of positivity.”
Dunn is a communications and sociology double major, and she plans on getting her doctorate and possibly become a college professor. When she’s not on the court, Dunn is like any other college student. Listening to music, hanging out with friends and watching TV.
“Outside of basketball, I like to just hang out with my friends and I go home a lot. I’m a big family person, and I’m only a hour and a half away,” she said.
Being a big family person is what brought her to Youngstown. Dunn is from Washington, Pennsylvania, a city about 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh. She wanted to stay close to home and chose YSU because it felt right on her visit to the university.
“The biggest part for me was distance,” Dunn said. “This was my closest offer that I had with the exception of Duquesne, and I just liked it better here. The team, the atmosphere, the size of the campus. I knew on my visit that this was the place for me.”
Before coming to YSU, Dunn was a star at Trinity High School. She was named third team Interscholastic Athletic League all-state in Class AAA, as she averaged 17.6 points and took Trinity to the Western Pennsylvania IAL Championship Game for the first time in program history.
In her third year with the Penguins, Dunn has made a lot of memories, but still has her eye on making one more.
“Just being with my teammates,” Dunn said “When you’re on a team at the Division I level, you’re with these people every day of the year. We went to Hawaii my freshman year, that was so awesome and our goal is to win the Horizon League championship and go to the NCAA Tournament, so I hope to have that memory.”
The Horizon League tournament begins March 5 at a to-be-determined time at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Until that time however, you can catch walking around in her Vans.