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The success of Butler basketball for the 2013-14 season began in earnest earlier this week, as the Bulldogs returned from eight days of rest in wake of their season-ending defeat to Marquette in the NCAA Tournament, and got into the weight room on Monday.
Every Bulldog player will be concentrating on getting stronger and more athletic this season in preparation of competing in the Big East Conference. However, perhaps no player is that more critical for than sophomore-to-be Kellen Dunham.
“I think strength is a huge part of Kellen moving forward,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “He ends up taking tough shots and anytime that you’re the shooter and scorer that is capable of doing what he does, he’s going to be guarded with a lot of focus.”
Dunham had one of the more productive freshmen season sin recent Butler history this past winter. He averaged 9.5 points per game, which was comparable to Bulldog legends Matt Howard (12.3 points per game as a freshman), Gordon Hayward (13.1), and Shelvin Mack (11.9).
“He had one of the best scoring years of any freshmen in recent memory,” Stevens said.
Dunham opened his college career with 18 points in a win over Elon and proceeded to score in 18 of the Bulldogs’ initial 28 games. However, over his final eight games of the season, he never reached double figures.
In addition, after shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point range in February, that rate dropped to 21.4 percent in eight games during last month. He finished the season by connecting on 34.5 percent of his 3-point shots and 37.5 percent overall from the field. But Stevens isn’t ready to acknowledge that his freshman shooter was physically worn down.
“His shots aren’t as easy as maybe a guy’s who doesn’t shoot it as well,” Stevens explained. “You’ve got good teams that you are playing against (late in the season), they know Kellen well and they are preparing for him.”
If Butler fans are curious what Dunham is capable of next season, Stevens pointed out how the 6-foot-6, 185-pound guard played during a mid-season stretch of three games in which the Bulldogs played without senior Rotnei Clarke.
Dunham scored 40 points during that stretch, which included shooting 7 of 12 from long range against Gonzaga and LaSalle.
“He really filled it up,” Stevens said. “He played great against Gonzaga and he played great against LaSalle. He was our go-to perimeter scorer and he did a great job with that.”
Butler graduated guards Clarke and reserve Chase Stigall from this season’s roster, so Stevens plans on a bigger, more athletic Dunham being able to withstand physically a more intense defensive focus by opponents with his effort in the weight room over the next six months.
“Getting stronger is a big part of Kellen being able to put the ball on the floor, so that he can get to the foul line more,” Stevens explained. “We all know that when he gets to the foul line, you feel pretty good about that being two points.”