Alabama's top 2022 prospect Barry Dunning is ready to make an impact at the next level | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / April 23.
  • Alabama’s top 2022 prospect Barry Dunning is ready to make an impact at the next level

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    By JACOB POLACHECK

    Barry Dunning is far more than just a basketball player. 

    He likes to paint, a hobby he picked up during quarantine. 

    He plays video games and watches anime. 

    He listens to podcasts like Kobe Bryant’s Detail and has dreams of starting his own orthopedic practice one day. 

    Dunning recalls a conversation he had with his mother years ago as he was laying out plans for his future. 

    “You’re going to have to have a backup plan,” his mother said. “You love the game, so do something that can keep you around the game of basketball.” 

    With a passion for science, chemistry and biology, Dunning says he’s thought about going to college to become a sports medicine trainer or an orthopedic doctor. 

    “Somehow I’d still be around basketball, but not playing basketball.” 

    However, as the No. 1 ranked player in the state of Alabama, Dunning’s main goal is still to play basketball at the next level. 

    And with schools like Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Samford, Memphis and Western Kentucky hot on his trail, Dunning is likely to get that opportunity. 

    “All the schools recruiting me, they are great people that know the game of basketball,” Dunning said. “They’ve been on me and I just love every school that’s recruiting me. I know that it’s going to be a very hard decision to pick.” 

    Coming from Mobile, AL, Dunning is being heavily recruited by the University of Alabama as the Crimson Tide became the third school to extend him an offer in June of 2019.  

    “They were one of the first schools to see me and offer me,” he said. That really sticks out because I’m a big believer in the ones who were there first before you became big or started getting into things. The interest and the love, they really want me there.” 

    Dunning took a visit to Alabama during his sophomore year of high school to watch the Crimson Tide football team take on SEC rival LSU. 

    “Just seeing how lively the school was, the tradition, just Alabama in general, the Crimson, the fan base, it was just crazy and wild,” he said. 

    When it comes to basketball, Dunning is impressed with the way head coach Nate Oats and his staff let his players play in the open court. 

    “They shoot the most threes and they’re the fastest team on fast breaks,” he said. “It really takes them about five seconds to score on a fast break, so they like to get up the court fast and they shoot a lot of threes. 

    They play an open offense on the break and I feel like I’m the type of guy that finishes. I’ve got a nice little mid-range pull up and I like to play in transition.”

    Arkansas is another school that has been recruiting Dunning for quite some time, first reaching out on June 15, the first day college coaches could contact rising juniors. 

    “They showed me how much they wanted me,” he said. “That first couple of days, within maybe four or five days, I had the majority of the coaching staff’s phone numbers. They always check in on me and see how I’m doing.” 

    Like Alabama, Dunning is impressed by Arkansas’ proclivity to ‘let guys showcase their skills and what they do best’. 

    “I want a place that lets their guys go and be free, but under a structure,” he said. “If you’re a great passer, then pass. If you’re a great finisher, then get to the cup. They let their guys play.” 

    Auburn, another in-state program, has been consistent in their recruitment of Dunning, first seeing him play at a Nike EYBL session in Atlanta when he was just a freshman. 

    “They’ve been there and are always checking in,” he said. “Bruce Pearl and the rest of the coaching staff have really been checking in on me, seeing how I’ve been doing during the season. 

    “One thing I really like about Auburn is how they’ve been able to play even with the NCAA [allegations]. I just love to see that they work so hard just to prove to a lot of people.” 

    Ole Miss is another school working hard to recruit Dunning, with assistant coach Ronnie Hamilton keeping consistent communication. 

    “They’re big on player development, getting guys ready to go to the next level, just getting those guys to reach their full potential at the college level,” he said. “Watching those guys, I’ve seen all their play-styles and they’re really some hoopers. They have a chip on their shoulder every game.” 

    Outside of the SEC, Dunning is being recruited by Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers. 

    Penny Hardaway is a great coach,” he said. “You know those guys play and he’s just teaching those guys how to play basketball.” 

    Dunning says that Memphis’ emphasis on player development has really impressed him, with assistant coach Cody Toppert sending him film and breaking down mistakes. 

    “You see the way they play,” he said. “You see how they take it step-by-step and how all those guys improve. They stress their weaknesses into strengths and you can really tell when they play.” 

    Dunning is also being recruited heavily by Western Kentucky, specifically head coach Rick Stansbury and assistant Hennssy Auriantal

    “Coach Hen has been recruiting me a lot and has told me ‘always be a leader’ and ‘always keep good vibes around your team’,” Dunning said. “He’s talked about working hard and what that brings to the table.

    “They’re not a big Division 1 school like the Kentucky’s, Kansas’ and North Carolina’s, but I feel like after this year, they’re going to be more known to a lot more people.” 

    With so many high-major schools pursuing Dunning’s commitment, it may come as a surprise that Dunning missed a whole summer of AAU basketball during his sophomore year. 

    “I didn’t play in front of these teams,” he said. “When I first came in these were the schools that saw me. They saw me before I was nationally known and that plays a big part.” 

    Dunning says he may be ready for a college decision come the end of the year. 

    “Maybe in the fall or around January I may be ready because schools might come and offer,” he said. “But you never know. I’d say it’ll probably be around December or January.” 

    With a timetable in mind, Dunning says that his decision will likely come down to two factors. 

    “Love and family,” he said. “I feel like love is just the one word to explain everything because when you love something, you’re going to put everything you can into it.

    “You’re going to care for it. And with that, with love, I might go to a school and someone else might come with me from a whole different state. Just by having that common love for the game, we become closer as teammates, and not only as teammates but friends and eventually become brothers.” 

    And as one of the top available prospects in 2022, Dunning is expected to make an immediate impact at the college level. 

    247Sports.com currently lists Dunning as the No. 49 overall basketball prospect in the class of 2022, while ESPN.com slots him at No. 44. 

    At 6-foot-6, 205-pounds, Dunning can score at all three-levels on the court, but he is most proud of his midrange game. 

    “I feel like the midrange is a lost art,” he said. “That’s something I’ve been working on since I was a little kid in the gym with my parents and cousins. I’ve always shot the mid range.” 

    As Dunning has progressed through high school, he’s continued to add features to his game, including an improved three-point shot. 

    “At first I wasn’t a great three-point shooter,” he said. “I’ve been working on it. Now, I’m more consistent.” 

    Dunning’s game shines on both ends of the court, as he’s shown a tremendous ability to anchor a defense, blocking shots and communicating effectively. 

    “I’m the type of player that works hard,” he said. “I get in the gym early and I’m the last one to leave. I’m very focused and determined.” 

    Dunning’s focus and determination was put to the test this season, as his junior season at McGill-Toolen (AL) Catholic High School, was filled with obstacles and setbacks. 

    Due to COVID tracing, Dunning had to miss the first two games of the season, but through it all he’s stayed positive. 

    “Honestly, I never knew we would be able to finish the season or even have a season,” he said. “We were able to finish the season and come together. Unfortunately, we lost last Tuesday, but really I feel like I became more of a leader, asserted myself more on the court, showing by example and understanding human nature and my teammates.” 

    Dunning says he’s worked hard to understand the definition of working hard. 

    “I have a great work ethic and it shows on the court,” he said. 

    Dunning put up one of his best performances this season in the Boys 6A Area 1 Championship in a 74-70 loss against Saraland (AL) on Feb. 12, scoring a game-high 34 points.

    Just days later, McGill-Toolen’s season came to an end with a 90-66 loss Spanish Fort (AL), as Dunning finished with a team-high 23 points.

    Through it all, Dunning has shown an unbelievable ability to keep his head up through hardships with a good attitude. 

    “A lot of people say I have a good heart. A lot of people say I’m just joyful,” he said. “I’m the type of guy, even if something is going wrong, I’m just a happy guy. I don’t let things get me down. I just find what’s positive. 

    “If it’s a rainy day, a bad day, hot day, whatever day…I’m just happy. I just want to be better. You never know when your time might be up, so just be happy. I’m the type of guy that’s happy. Happy is the word. Happy, I’m always happy.” 

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