2014 recruit watch: Kortney Dunbar

The Lady Vols are looking for a sharpshooter with size and 6-2 Kortney Dunbar fits the slot. Go inside with InsideTennessee for a recruiting update with one of the uncommitted gems of the Class of 2014.

When Kortney Dunbar started high school, she was a 5-foot-7 guard who could shoot — an excellent skill set but guards at that size are plentiful. Then, the Illinois guard began to grow and didn't stop until she reached 6-2, despite neither parent being taller than 5-11.

"I started getting growing pains," Dunbar said. "I grew five or six inches. I had a crazy growth spurt. I am taller than my dad now so it's kind of funny. My family pictures are kind of funny."

Dunbar had been a point guard, but her size meant a shift to shooting guard as a junior. A benefit for Dunbar is she learned to be able to see the floor and distribute the ball before she became a go-to shooter.

College recruiters were already watching because of Dunbar's shooting ability, but the growth spurt really piqued their interest, and top programs started paying close attention to the sharpshooter who can fill up a scoring column with deep range.

"That's when I started getting a lot more heavily recruited because I've got the size," she said. "I started working out a lot so I got a lot stronger. I started lifting weights. I started getting more and more on coaches' radars."

Jolette Law had long been aware of Dunbar because she was the head coach at Illinois. Law is now an assistant at Tennessee for Holly Warlick and can vouch for Dunbar's ability.

"I went to one of her team camp's there," Dunbar said of Law. "I have really got a bond with her, and she is really close to my high school coach."

Tennessee will be Dunbar's first official visit next weekend. She will be joined in Knoxville by Alexa Middleton, a 5-9 combo guard from Murfreesboro, Tenn. Middleton committed to the Lady Vols last May. The pair will attend the Vols football season opener at Neyland Stadium as part of the visit.

Dunbar is from Edwardsville, Ill., and played with Emmonie Henderson, a post who was recruited by Tennessee and opted to sign with Louisville last fall. She will be a freshman for the Cardinals this coming season.

Louisville is also a finalist for Dunbar, along with Oklahoma State and Baylor.

"All of the schools that I am looking at have good tradition, great families," Dunbar said. "I want to go to a school that has great backgrounds in basketball, good crowds.

"Obviously, Tennessee has great traditions in women's basketball. If you want to win a championship, you go there basically. Baylor and Louisville have just been to the Final Four, and Oklahoma State, I love the coaching staff and fell in love when I went on my (unofficial) visit."

Dunbar has also visited the campus of Louisville when she went to the Cardinals' team camp over the summer.

"I want to look for a team where I am going to fit in, and I want to play and help win a national championship," Dunbar said. "That's my goal. All of the schools on my list are capable of getting there and I would love to be a part of that."

Dunbar has consulted with Henderson about the recruiting process because the basketball and track standout also garnered the interest of top programs.

"Once I had my growth spurt I started getting some of the big schools that she had – Louisville and Tennessee were some of the big ones – and she told me a lot," Dunbar said. "She wasn't a big factor in my decision (to narrow to four finalists), but she has helped me a lot. It was really helpful."

Dunbar is certain of the Tennessee visit but she is not yet sure if she will make all four official visits. She has already been on the campuses of Louisville and Oklahoma State.

"Tennessee is my first official," Dunbar said. "I do have Baylor coming on September 20th. I haven't scheduled the other two for sure yet. Tennessee is my first, and I want to see how it goes."

Dunbar hasn't set a firm timetable for a decision, but if a school feels like the right fit, she will sign in November rather than wait until April.

"I definitely want to do it before the season starts," said Dunbar, who will be a senior at Edwardsville High School.

Dunbar averaged 14.6 points per game last season - second to then-teammate Henderson at 15.1 - and connected on 54 treys.

Dunbar is a coveted recruit because she can shoot, and with her size, she creates mismatches for smaller guards trying to check her on the perimeter. A tall shooting guard provides another team advantage.

Candace Parker, a 6-4 All-American post at Tennessee, extolled the shooting ability of Sidney Spencer, a tall guard who can bury the three ball. Parker liked to set up inside on the same side of the court as Spencer, who was on the wing, because Spencer's defender couldn't sag into the paint on Parker. The defender had to respect Spencer's marksmanship. Mercedes Russell, a 6-6 post for the Lady Vols, is likely to form a similar symbiotic relationship with a shooting guard at Tennessee.

Dunbar knows her reputation has been built as a shooter – and her size and skill set is similar to that of Spencer's. But, like Spencer, Dunbar also wants to be able to post up if needed and hit mid-range jumpers. She also understands the value of glass work.

"I am a really good rebounder," Dunbar said when asked to scout herself on the court. "I can get in there and get rebounds, some tip backs. I am working on my tip-back play. Sometimes down there with those big bodies you don't have time to grab it, put it on the floor and go back up.

"I have been trying to go down low some because I will get guards on me that are like 5-5, 5-6. Coach always says, ‘Mismatch! Mismatch!' and I will post them up, drop step, dribble, and I'll go up. That really elevated my game."

As far as improvements to her game, Dunbar wants to diversify her offense even more.

"This season I want to try to put it on the floor more," Dunbar said. "When I was little I had to come off screens – I am really good at coming off of screens and shooting; I love getting that big screen by that big post player – but this year since I've got my size I went down lower. I could have relied on the three, but I want to work on putting it on the floor and get that dribble, pull-up."

Louisville was a Final Four team in 2013. Baylor won a national championship in 2012. Tennessee's last Final Four was in 2008, but the Lady Vols eight national titles and longtime history of success caused the Tennessee to land on Dunbar's list of finalists.

"I love the tradition," Dunbar said. "You can't really beat a place like Tennessee for their tradition. They average a lot of fans per game and playing in front of that is every girl's dream. They are a great school, great education … . If you want to win, it's a winning program."

Dunbar's long-term plans are to find a career in basketball after her playing days, such as broadcasting or even coaching. She intends to major in business or psychology with a minor in communications.

"I want to stay around basketball," she said.

Dunbar is already comfortable with Law and has also talked with assistant coach Kyra Elzy. Her visit to Knoxville will help Dunbar determine if the atmosphere and team fit at Tennessee feel as comfortable as her relationship with the staff. Dunbar's high school coach is Lori Blade, and she is very familiar with Law because of her stint at Illinois.

Warlick answered last season the most pressing question about Tennessee since Pat Summitt retired after the 2011-12 season – can the Lady Vols still sign top recruits? The answer was yes when Russell and guard Jordan Reynolds traveled to Tennessee from the state of Oregon. Both will be freshmen this season and are expected to be key players.

Summitt is no longer on the sideline for Tennessee.

"That was a big thing," Dunbar said. "Pat Summitt was recruiting Emmonie when she was a sophomore."

Henderson visited Tennessee last fall – the first season that Summitt wasn't the head coach – and Henderson told Dunbar that Summitt wasn't on the bench anymore, but she was still there. Henderson also told Dunbar that the retirement of Summitt would have no effect on her college decision.

"It was like, ‘Tennessee is still going to continue its tradition,' " Dunbar said.

Summitt remains involved with the program as head coach emeritus. Last season, she attended every home game except one, and she was at the majority of the practices.

"Those fans are still die-hard Lady Vol basketball," Dunbar said. "That was one of the main things I was looking for. Coach Holly has obviously done a good job with her recruits getting Mercedes Russell and Jordan Reynolds.

"That kind of shined to me. Coach Holly is still getting these recruits. Pat Summitt is a great coach, and she handed it down to Holly knowing that she still could continue the Tennessee tradition.

"I am going to keep Tennessee high on my list. Tennessee never really changed since she left."

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