Though a bit taller and not as deftly quick, Kris Dunn has heard an awful lot of comparisons to former UConn stud Kemba Walker this season. Walker, as we remember, pieced together one of the more magical one-man massacres of NCAA tournament history.
It was Walker's knack for attacking and pulling off game-winning plays in crunch time that led a young and callow Huskies team to the 2011 NCAA tournament championship.
Dunn's game doesn't draw that many parallels to Walker's. Overall, they are different threats with a different arsenal. Both electrifying and high-scoring guards, Dunn's winning attributes now mirror those of Walker.
These leadership qualities are a necessity for any veteran looking to steer a team through the bumpy ride of pressure-hiked March.
Walker's 2011 eruption, in which he led unheralded UCONN out of borderline mediocrity and into a national championship, was historic.
Walker averaged 16 points, four boards, and four assists, albeit it was his flair for the big shot which enabled UConn to rip off 11 wins in 27 days en route to the 53-41 championship victory over Butler.
Walker's endless supply of stepbacks and innate driving ability gave foes fits that memorable March. Just staying in front of the crafty, gear-changing guard from the Bronx left exasperated defenders sucking back wind.
Walker's heroics guided a young UConn team, one pigeonholed as a one-man band, to improbable greatness.
In Dunn, we identify a similar threat. You see a score-crazy, stat sheet stuffing guard who put NBA dreams on hold for one season.
You see a guy capable of breaking open a game with rapid-fire scoring outbursts. You see a player who must get a touch during the heightened pressure stages of crunch time. A player who is often forced to shoulder the burden of savior.
Dunn enters 2016 with a much higher profile and draft stock than Walker did in 2011. Yet the spurt-ability, the game-altering engine and propensity to pilot the team through rough patches with scoring eruptions, it's there.
Dunn scored 26 points, dealt out nine assists, and ripped six rebounds during a recent win against a St. John's team that's squandered much of the high expectations and hype about Chris Mullin's homecoming. Losses to incarnate Word, NJIT, and a humiliating pre-season loss to Division-II STAC has a tendency to do that.
This wasn't exactly unheralded and forgotten UCONN (still recovering from the loss of NBA caliber talent such as Hasheem Thabeet, AJ Price, Jerome Dyson, and Stanley "Sticks" Robinson) recording mammoth upset after mammoth upset en route to the championship. Dunn still has a long ways to go before he can morph into the miracle Kemba was, crushing the competition with strong surges to the rim.
Walker and UConn's run came at the right time, as everyone got hot in unison. Paralleling Walker's take-over was increased scoring from then-freshman Jeremy Lamb, who was inconsistent for much of the start of the season. Shabazz Napier, another gritty little guard with a knack for the big game, also levitated his game during critical stages that March.
Walker lifted UConn out of obscurity when the Big East was a monster of a conference--physical and fast-paced, with 16 teams. Two of those teams were guaranteed to crack the country's top-5.
Dunn finds himself in similar circumstances, with less pressure and maybe even a slighter strength of schedule. Yet the hard-to-guard characteristics, the flair for the end game, it's mighty similar.