By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Shortly after a Madison County boys basketball game during Kellen Dunham's freshman season, a noteworthy former county star marveled at the young shooter's potential once his frame filled out.
Now a sophomore at Butler, Dunham is listed at 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds on the men's basketball team's official roster. And the difference in his size from his days at Pendleton Heights is especially apparent in his upper body.
"Since I first came in, I've probably put on 15 to 20 pounds," Dunham said following the Bulldogs' 59-58 win Saturday at Ball State. "That's positive. And hopefully it's all muscle, it's not the typical freshman 15."
Dunham laughs at the last line, but he's taking body maintenance very seriously these days.
"It's just different," he said. "It's going to take more of a toll on my body. I probably play two times as much as I did last year. I just need to definitely be more responsible with my body and things like that."
Change seems to be around every corner at Butler. There's a new conference to compete in for the second straight season with the school moving from the Atlantic 10 to the newly formed Big East. There's also a new head coach with assistant Brad Miller taking over for Brad Stevens, who surprisingly bolted for the Boston Celtics over the summer.
And there are plenty of new faces on the roster. Last year's leading scorer, Rotnei Clarke, is out of eligibility and another key cog from that team, junior Roosevelt Jones, was lost to a preseason injury. Left behind is a roster featuring six freshmen and two sophomores — Dunham and roommate Devontae Morgan.
So far, however, it's been business as usual for the Bulldogs on the court.
Butler is off to a 4-0 start and begins competition today in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., with Dunham at the center of attention. He leads the team with 36 minutes per game, and he's tied with senior Khyle Marshall for the lead with 15.8 points per game.
It's an expanded role, especially on offense, but it doesn't necessarily come with added pressure.
"I hope he doesn't feel that, either, as well," assistant coach Terry Johnson said. "He is on everybody's scout like the main guy. 'Do not let Kellen Dunham get a look.' So that pressure may be there. But it's a college team, a lot of guys were scorers when they were in high school. But everybody has to adjust to their role."
Dunham already has made some adjustments in his game.
He's putting the ball on the floor more and challenging defenders off the dribble. That makes opponents think twice before committing too aggressively on the perimeter.
But he must find the proper balance and make certain he isn't neglecting the jump shot.
"His ability to put the ball on the floor (has improved), and even sometimes maybe too much right now," Johnson said. "But he's doing a great job mixing his game up, catch-and-shoot 3s and putting it on the floor. He's just going to continue to get better throughout the year."
Johnson, an Anderson High School graduate, is one of the few Bulldogs still in the same role this season. He's now the longest-tenured assistant on the staff, and he is the defensive guru. But he helps out wherever he's needed, just as he always has.
"Butler's a great place to be," Johnson said. "And just being able to coach basketball, help young men grow, I mean, how much more blessed can you be than that?"
This season is all about growth for the Bulldogs, as a young team attempts to find its way.
That process has gone well in the early stages, but there's still a long road ahead. The conference schedule will be the most challenging in the team's history, and the program's goals remain consistently high.
"People are starting to fit into their roles and understand what they've got to bring every day in practice and definitely in games," Dunham said. "I think it's coming together a little bit. We still have a lot of improvement, and we know that."