Dunning’s improvement seen as West Virginia’s season progresses
Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 23:03
For West Virginia women's basketball redshirt sophomore Ayana Dunning, this season couldn't get here quick enough.
After transferring to WVU from LSU following her freshman year, Dunning was forced to look on from the bench as her new team was in the middle of having the best season in program history.
All she just wanted to was get out there and play with them.
When she finally got to do that this season, she did what she could to make a quick impact.
It hasn't necessarily been easy, though.
"It's kind of difficult to come back from sitting out for a whole year," Dunning said. "(Last year) I got adjusted to what the system was like, and I'm fitting in pretty well playing with the rest of the team this year."
Coming out of high school, the Columbus, Ohio, native had West Virginia on her list before deciding to head to LSU.
In her freshman year with the Tigers, she averaged five points and four rebounds per game before transferring.
Once her decision was made, it was time for Dunning to get used to her new surroundings, both on and off the court.
"There were so many things that were different. Just getting used to the new campus, learning new teammates. You surround yourself with 12 to 14 different people that you're going to be with year-round that you come in here not knowing," Dunning said. "I probably leaned toward (WVU seniors) Madina (Ali) and Vanessa (House) the most. They're obviously seniors now, so they've been here."
When Dunning finally got her chance to show what she could do on the court in a Mountaineer uniform, things weren't going as well as she had hoped.
While she was grabbing four rebounds per game, her scoring just didn't seem to be coming along as it could have been. In her first 18 games of the year, she was averaging just 3.8 points per game.
In the Capital Classic against Marshall, Dunning had what looked to be her breakout performance for the year. She poured in 16 points to go with seven rebounds to lead the Mountaineers to a blowout win over the Herd.
It was that game that, in her opinion, represented a huge confidence builder heading into the final half of the year.
"That gave me a lot of help, because after sitting out a year, you lose your confidence in your game abilities," Dunning said. "You just practice and lift, and you start to lose sight of what you can really do in a game situation.
"It gave me a lot of confidence and just showed me that I could still do it."
And that boost came at just the right time, as the Mountaineers were preparing to head into the toughest portion of their Big East Conference schedule.
As she soon came to find out, when you play in the Big East, having another performance like hers against Marshall wouldn't come easy.
"For Big East play, you always have to be geared up just because there are so many good teams," Dunning said. "Each night, anybody can go out there and win or lose, and if you're not on your game, they will beat you."
With Dunning's first season in the Big East, she also got to experience something nobody on this team could've expected, especially after the success it had last season. After struggling to get wins down the stretch, West Virginia found itself on the "bubble" of the NCAA Tournament.
Even though the Mountaineers were able to make the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed, the 6-foot-3 center said she, as well as the rest of the team, will be heading into these final games of the year with a different attitude than earlier in the regular season.
"We know we have to go out and take care of business," Dunning said. "It's not fun and games anymore."