The Poland senior is the leader of the Bulldogs' boys basketball team.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
POLAND -- Even though Jamie Dunn grew up as the son of a well-known basketball coach, he always knew he could choose his own path.
His father made sure of that.
"A lot of people get pressured by their parents to live up to some standard," Dunn, a senior point guard at Poland, said. "My father never did that. He always had an influence on my life but he said it was up to me to choose what I wanted to do. He was just there to help me if I needed it."
The approach has helped Dunn develop from a 5-year-old who shot baskets after his father's games into last year's Metro Athletic Conference player of the year.
Letterman, leader: A three-year letterman, Dunn (6-foot-1, 182 pounds) has averaged more than 10 points, three assists and three rebounds per game in each of the past three years. He has also improved his defense and become the leader of the reigning MAC champion Bulldogs.
"I don't think you could ask for a better point guard in high school," Poland coach Ken Grisdale said. "The past three years, since he's been our point guard, our program has really turned the corner and we've become more successful."
Poland advanced to last year's district final, losing to Chaney 44-41. The Bulldogs are 5-2 this season, with losses to Beaver Falls and Boardman.
Poland senior Lou DaVanzo is just now returning from a thumb injury he suffered during football season. Once healthy, Poland might be the team to beat in the MAC, and Dunn is a big reason.
"He's not a scream and holler kid," Grisdale said. "He's the best type of leader. He plays hard and expects everyone else to follow his example."
Memorable performance: If Dunn has a breakout game in his career, it came last year against Canfield. Poland trailed 43-27 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs -- led by 16 points from Dunn -- out-scored the Cardinals 35-8 in the final period to win 62-51. He finished with 26 points, four assists, two blocks and three steals, playing all 32 minutes.
"They had our number for so long," Dunn said. "It sort of put us over the hump in winning the MAC championship."
Dunn grew up idolizing -- who else? -- Michael Jordan. The first time he saw Jordan in person was in 1989, when Jordan hit the game-winning shot over Craig Ehlo to eliminate the Cavs from the playoffs. He met Jordan at his Five-Star basketball camp two years ago.
"I had chills going through my body," Dunn said. "He taught us some 1-on-1 moves and he was just schooling guys who were about to be Division I college players."
Like every other player not named LeBron James, Dunn dreams of someday playing in Division I. A handful of Div. II teams are recruiting him and he hasn't ruled out trying to walk on at a Div. I program and earn a scholarship "in case nothing else works out."
Even if it doesn't happen, Dunn knows he's a lucky guy.
"It sounds kind of stupid, but I'm really thankful for all the friendships I have through playing," he said. "Basketball is such a big part of my life and I'm involved with it in some way pretty much every day.
"For some people, the most important thing in their lives are music or painting. For me, it's basketball."