Teams work hard during the offseason and practice to gain an edge on the opposition.Dunbar (Dayton, Ohio)
gets one by simply suiting up.
"We have to remind them every now and then cause sometimes they might lose track of it," Dunbar boys basketball coach Peter Pullen said. "Sometimes they forget they already have an edge when they walk onto the courts in this area cause they have that ‘D' on their shirt. Our kids know about the tradition and they come here to be a part of it.
"But they also have to live up to it."
Dunbar is definitely living large. The Wolverines are 21-0 and ranked 14th in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Boys Basketball Rankings presented by the Army National Guard
. Most consider Dunbar, which plays in Ohio's second-largest classification (Division II), the state's best team.
"It's like we have a big bulls-eye on our back," senior Deontae Hawkins
said. "We know everyone is going to play us their hardest. We know everyone is going to give us their best games. We just have to give them ours."
Dunbar has been dominant for years – making state tournaments in four of the last five decades – but its recent run is unrivaled. In the last eight years Dunbar has won 20 games or more and finished in the Top 10 of the final Ohio Associated Press D-II State Poll seven times. Only three times have the Wolverines been ranked lower than No. 3.
In the last six years Dunbar has won three D-II state titles. Their four titles overall (also one in 1987) ranks fourth all-time in Ohio history.
During its run Dunbar has produced two NBA players in 2006 grad Daequan Cook (Ohio State/Oklahoma City Thunder) and '07 grad Norris Cole (Cleveland State/Miami Heat).
"I've been blessed…I'll be honest with you," Pullen said. "I walked into a situation where you get Daequan Cook as a junior and the kids after that have just fed off the tradition. We tell them very seldom is someone going to have a flat game against us because of the fact of who we are. They want to play the best. Sometimes we use that to our advantage. You have to use all kinds of tactics."
Dunbar has all kinds of options.
The Wolverines' lineup features three NCAA D-I recruits (Gary Akbar
, Andre Yates
and Hawkins) and a ninth-grade point guard (Amos "AJ" Harris
) regarded by many as one of the top three freshmen in Ohio.
Hawkins, a skilled and versatile 6-foot-8 small forward, is headed to Wichita State. He averages a team-high 17.2 points and 7.7 rebounds. Akbar, a 6-5 power forward, averages 17.1 points and 12.3 rebounds. He's commited to Cleveland State. Yates, a 6-2 transfer guard from Trotwood-Madison, is headed to Creighton. He averages 14 points, 3.2 assists and 3.2 steals.
Harris, a shifty 5-9 point, averages more assists (8.4) than points (8.1) and holds an offer from the University of Dayton. Others schools in the mix already include Indiana, UCLA, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Xavier, Butler and Washington.
"It's hard to compare (Dunbar teams) but you have to give (this one) their props because they haven't lost," Pullen said. "We've won 21 straight games. The record since I've been here is 21 straight. Daequan and them won that many in a row too. It's just hard (to compare) because you have two teams that eventually had pros.
"Time will tell."
Dunbar averages 81.6 points and has had only three games decided by single digits. Tonight the Wolverines play Eaton (Oh.) in the
When asked to define this Dunbar team, every player mentioned chemistry and solidarity in having one goal: A state title.
"This team is very focused," Akbar said. "We're all focused and on one page."
"We've all been playing together for a while and everybody is on the same page," echoed Hawkins. "Everybody shares the same mindset and that's winning state."
Said Yates: "Everybody knows the goal."
Hawkins and Akbar were starters on Dunbar's 2010 state championship team, so they know what it takes.
And so does their coach.
"Our kids have the heart to rise above," Pullen said. "It's just heart."
…And the name that covers it.Eric Frantz is the Managing Editor of JJHuddle.com and can be reached at email@example.com.