6’7” Ryan Dunn, the late blooming New York wing, has committed to the University of Virginia. His simultaneous combination of physical growth and skill development over the past eighteen months caught the attention of a rapidly growing number of colleges, including, ultimately, the Cavaliers staff.
Through intense training over the global pandemic, Dunn, who played for the powerhouse Long Island Lutheran, was able to accelerate his development. The New York Jayhawks product provides the Hoos with a versatile prospect with upside. Dunn, the brother of Mariners pitcher Justin Dunn, will be able to develop his physique this year at the Perkiomen School in Pennsylvania, while acclimating his skill-set to his newfound size.
Pro Insight’s Tyler Glazier spoke with the newest Cavalier.
Pro Insight: Off the top, how did you get to where you are today?
Ryan Dunn: A lot of hard work. A lot of hard work. Growing up I wasn’t really into basketball and I didn’t play seriously until my freshman year of high school. I always played baseball when I was younger so it was really hard for me to catch up to where I am today because a lot of kids were already playing when they were four or five [years old] and I didn’t play seriously until I was around 13 [years old]. I wasn’t as tall through my freshman, sophomore, and junior year. I was always the scrawny little kid that wasn’t able to play at that type of level. Once I started to get a lot of work done it started paying off this summer.
PI: How did you come to fall in love with the game of basketball?
RD: So I kind of started transitioning to it my seventh or eighth grade year and then I hurt my arm pitching one day. As I started to put the baseball down, the basketball kind of picked up a little bit more. So then it was time to fully put down the bat and glove and see where basketball could take me.
PI: Was baseball your first love?
RD: Yeah, baseball was my first love.
PI: Did you ever think about coming back and playing in high school?
RD: I played my freshman year and I wasn’t as good as I was before so I said “you know what, let’s just stick with basketball.”
PI: Describe your game — what are some of your strengths on the court?
RD: I can shoot the ball well; I’m very versatile; I bring a lot of energy; I try to be a positive player for coaches and teammates; I can get to the rim; people say I can score at all three levels. I’ve been working on a lot more back-to-the-basket stuff since last summer so I’ve gotten a lot better at that…like fades, hooks, etc. So I’m a very versatile player.
PI: What are you looking to improve before getting to the college level?
RD: Just limiting my turnovers and trying to make the right reads, being more aggressive getting to the rim and getting a lot of and-ones and foul calls. That’s about it.
PI: What are some underrated aspects of your game?
PI: I’d say my passing, even though I have a lot of turnovers, I kind of make really good passes that people don’t really see. I’ve always loved to pass ever since I was younger. I have to start scoring more, but that’s what people have told me...that my passing is underrated.
PI: Describe this past summer — what were you able to show coaches and evaluators on the 3SSB circuit?
RD: Just show who I am. I never played on the circuit until this year, so I never played in the EYBL, Under Armour, or Adidas. My first time being there it was crazy to be able to play and I just wanted to show coaches who I was as a person on and off the court. Just being me, I’d say.
PI: With it being your first time on a major circuit — was there a talent jump or an adjustment for you?
RD: Not really. I thought it would be a really big jump...it was a big jump, I’m not going to say it wasn’t, the competition with Adidas was amazing. I think it’s probably one of the best competitions out of all the shoe brands. But for me it gave me a big confidence boost because I was able to play and perform better than people who were up there and high names and I was nobody. So for me playing against that competition and actually thriving, it gave me a lot of confidence. It was kind of crazy jumping from not playing for a shoe team to going to these tournaments and playing top kids in the country was kind of surreal to me.
PI: How have the NY Jayhawks helped develop you on and off the court?
RD: A lot. They taught me a lot of stuff on and off the court, just being a better human being and person to everybody so everybody respects you. On the court, being able to have that dog mentality, able to go out and kill people who think they’re better than me. Coach Jay [David] was really big on that, telling me I’m “probably one of the best players on the circuit, so go out and show people who you really are because people don’t really know your name.” So that was a really big thing for me.
PI: You re-classified to the class of 2022 last season — what led to that decision and how has it benefited you?
RD: So this was a long way back, my dad was big on the prep route if I wanted to play college basketball. He knew that I wasn’t as big as I am now so he said, “maybe you’re going to have to do a prep year.” He didn’t want me to re-class because he didn’t want me to do an extra year of school, but he said, “we’re going to keep you going in your class of 2021 and if we need to then we’ll prep you.” So I said, “O.K.” Then senior year hits, I’m ready to go at LuHi and then all of a sudden COVID-19 hits and we have three games. I couldn’t show who I was my senior year, so I kind of had to figure out what I was going to do. So we sat down and decided we were going to do a post-grad year. That benefitted me a lot because I wouldn’t have the things I have right now if I didn’t take the post-grad route.
PI: How surreal has it been to be getting all of this attention from college programs?
RD: Very surreal — three years ago I never dreamed I’d be going to all of these schools, seeing all of these coaches, and that they’d be calling my phone. If you were to have told me that I would have thought you were crazy, but it’s really surreal for me to go out and see that these are the big time coaches and schools that want me to play for them. It kind of gave me a little bit more confidence, too.
PI: What were the most important factors in your college decision?
RD: Just making me feel comfortable and where I can grow. Throughout the players, coaches, the campus, facility, all of that. Just different aspects of the school could help me. Just having some signs that came through this process that helped me figure out what my decision was going to be.
PI: Who did you turn to for guidance during the process?
RD: My big one was my mom and dad, we talked about it a lot. I talked to my coaches at LuHi and Perkiomen. I talked to my trainer Andre Brown. I talked to Jay David. I talked to a lot of people, but the big one for me was my mom and my dad. They’ve been the main ones for me throughout this process.
PI: What sort of advice did they give you?
RD: “Go with what you feel is best. We can tell you whatever you want to hear, but if you feel like this is the school for you, then we always have your back. We’re going to give you stuff to make sure you think about every aspect throughout your process, but this is your journey. You make the decision and we’ll have your back through it.”
PI: Without further adieu, where will you be attending college?
RD: Next year I’ll be attending the University of Virginia.
PI: What set Virginia apart? What made them different from the rest of your options?
RD: Throughout our relationship and my conversations with Coach Bennett I kind of had some signs that this was the school for me, but I knew I still had to go see other schools just to be 100% sure. Once I got to UVA, saw the campus and met the coaches I just kind of fell in love with it and I knew that it was the place for me to attend college.
PI: What was Virginia’s most consistent message to you throughout the recruiting process? What did they try to convey?
RD: They were real with me and weren’t just telling me anything I wanted to hear. They said I might play my freshman season or I might have to redshirt, which was good for me because I like honest people. People that are honest and don’t sugarcoat stuff. So that was kind of a big one and then just keeping in touch, keeping pace of me was a big one for me too.
PI: What was Coach Bennett’s reaction when you told him?
RD: He was excited, he was really excited. Getting me along with the other recruits, he thinks it’s going to be a good year for them. We’ll have to start building soon, but once we get acclimated to UVA we’ll start working towards making it to the national championship, hopefully.
PI: Did you get to know any of the current or former UVA players during the recruiting process?
RD: Yeah, so my trainer kind of works with the Kings so he called me and put me on a FaceTime call with Justin Anderson, so we talked a little bit when they first offered me. He told me about how good the campus was. So he’s just been telling me to go there. He was one who really talked to me about it.
PI: What are some points he shared with you that made an impression?
RD: Nothing that made a huge impact, he just told me a lot of great stuff about Coach Bennett: how he’s a great guy, he’s always honest, whatever you hear you’re going to get, no sugarcoating, he’s always a good guy on and off the floor. It made me feel like UVA is the best fit for me if I want to get to where I want to go.
PI: What do you hope to bring to the program?
RD: Just to be me, I would say. Being able to be the best Ryan I can be for them. Whatever they need me to do — if they need me to score, I can score, or to defend, then defend, or bring energy, then I’ll bring energy. Whatever they need, I’ll try my best to do that for them.
PI: Do you model your game after anyone in particular?
RD: I watch a lot of film on Kevin Durant: his back-to-the-basket, his pull-ups. Brandon Ingram, too. That’s about it, for me.
PI: How do you see your role at the next level?
RD: In a lot of different ways. As a very good defender because Coach Bennett said because I’m tall and long he can see me getting into the passing lanes. So being a good defender when I get up to the next level. Being able to score in many ways, impact the game early or whenever I need to for them.
PI: With your brother Justin being a professional athlete in the MLB — what type of resource and example has he been for you?
RD: Justin has helped me through these past couple summers. We’ve been in the gym a lot through the whole COVID-19 year and he’s taught me a lot ever since we were young about work ethic, being humble, being able to keep your head down and keep working, to pass people who don’t think you’re ready, and prove everyone wrong. Every time we would go work out and he’s trying to get to where he wants to get to, he’s not even where he wants to be, yet — so we’re both trying to work together to get where each of us wants to be.
PI: What will be your focus between now and when you get to campus?
RD: Just trying to get a lot better. Trying to get quicker because I know once I get there there’s going to be a lot of physicality. So for me getting stronger, faster, and a lot better before I go there so maybe as a freshman I can come in and contribute early if I’m able to. Just trying to be a better version of myself.
PI: Lastly, do you have any message for the Hoos fans who are thrilled about your commitment?
RD: I’m excited, as well. I can’t wait to get down there, be able to practice, and hopefully go win a national championship in the next few years.