Dunn earning rave reviews from NBA stars

Providence guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles the ball up court after a turnover by Marquette during a Big East game on March 1. The ex-New London High School All-American recently took part in an invitation-only elite basketball camp in California, where he got to listen to ... and play with ... a number of current NBA stars. (Stew Milne/AP Photo)
Providence guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles the ball up court after a turnover by Marquette during a Big East game on March 1. The ex-New London High School All-American recently took part in an invitation-only elite basketball camp in California, where he got to listen to ... and play with ... a number of current NBA stars. (Stew Milne/AP Photo)

Kris Dunn almost couldn't believe what he heard.

During a conversation with Kevin Durant at the Nike Basketball Academy in late June, the NBA megastar called Dunn one of his favorite college players.

"It was kind of shocking that he said that," Dunn said. "But it was appreciated."

Word has certainly gotten out about the former New London High School All-American, whose reputation and talent continue to attract attention as he prepares for his junior season at Providence College.

By all reports, Dunn turned in an impressive performance at the elite camp held in Santa Monica, Calif. He was one of 26 college basketball players selected to attend. They learned from current and former NBA stars, including LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, just to name a few. NBA front office personnel watched from the sidelines.

It was eye-opening experience for Dunn, who soaked up as much knowledge as he could, on and off the court.

"That was unbelievable," Dunn said. "It was just a blessing for me to be invited to the Nike camp. They set it up really nice. You got to do multiple events. ... We did yoga with LeBron. We got to meet a UFC fighter who taught us a couple things about being aggressive.

"On the court, there were just so many Hall of Famers and legends in the building every day teaching you something new. Then you had superstars of today who were playing, like James Harden, Kevin Durant, LeBron, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. They all taught us so much."

Perhaps the highlight for Dunn came when he had the opportunity to scrimmage against a team of NBA players. Some of his opponents included Harden, Cousins, Paul George and DeMar DeRozan.

At one point, the 6-foot-11 Cousins came out to guard him. He responded by scoring twice on the Sacramento big man.

Talk about a confidence-builder.

"I'm 21 years old, so I can't be starstruck in a situation like that," Dunn said. "My goal is to be in the NBA. So when I go against NBA guys I look at it as a challenge because I want to be in their situation. I just try to go as hard as I can and try to play the best that I can.

"... I definitely gained confidence from it because those are the best players in the world. To be capable of scoring on them, it shows that you're very talented and how hard you work."

Dunn had many memorable moments off the court, too. He got a chance to talk to ex-NBA point guard Gary Payton, who earned the nickname "The Glove" for his defensive prowess.

Dunn, the Big East Conference player and defensive player of the year, takes great pride in his defense.

"My favorite person to talk to at the camp was Gary Payton, because we're both aggressive on the defensive end," Dunn said. "He said he liked watching me play and liked how hard I go every game and that I give 100 percent."

When Dunn arrived home from Nike Basketball Academy, he couldn't wait to go back to work. He's spent the majority of his summer on the Providence campus, going through drills with his teammates and Providence volunteer coach God Shammgod during the day and returning to the gym at night for individual workouts.

He's focusing on staying low on his dribble and stretching his reliable shooting range out to the 3-point line.

"I'm a good mid-range shooter but I want to be a good 3-point shooter so I can keep the defense guessing," Dunn said.

Dunn also watches tons of film, evaluating his good and bad games. He also checks his favorite NBA guards like Westbrook, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and John Wall. He looks for things like leadership skills, communication and on-court demeanor.

After bypassing the 2015 NBA Draft despite being projected to be a first round pick, Dunn could enter top five draft territory next June with another terrific season.

The buzz is already building. He'll likely be a preseason All-American heading into the 2015-16 season. The spotlight will be on him as he leads a young Providence team.

He's prepared to deal with the hype. So far, he's more than lived up to his advanced billing coming out of New London.

"I've got a great support system, so they always make sure I'm humble," Dunn said. "As a person, I'm  already humble. Things like that don't really get to me because I love the game of basketball. When I'm on the court, I just lock in and I'm really focused and I zone everybody out.

"Awards don't really mean anything to me. It's a team game. I just want everybody to be successful."

g.keefe@theday.com

Twitter: @GavinKeefe

Providence guard Kris Dunn shoots a free throw during a game against Georgetown last season. The ex-New London High School All-American recently took part in an invitation-only elite basketball camp in California, where he got to listen to ... and play with ... a number of current NBA stars. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)
Providence guard Kris Dunn shoots a free throw during a game against Georgetown last season. The ex-New London High School All-American recently took part in an invitation-only elite basketball camp in California, where he got to listen to ... and play with ... a number of current NBA stars. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

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