The next time Duwayne Dunham is looking to direct a movie, maybe he should look no further than his daughter, Hailey, for a story line.
Small-fry basketball player, filled with self-doubt by a critical father and coaches, grows 10 inches in a few short years.
She earns a scholarship to USC.
She leads her team to its first Southern Section title.
And she lands Los Angeles Windward, enrollment 325, in the state championship game against an opponent with nearly four times as many students and seven times as many state title game appearances.
OK, so "Hoosiers" has been done, but ...
"I was always the small kid, always the kid who got yelled at by the coach and didn't know how to listen until I got older," Dunham recalled. "Then I got my growth spurt."
A late-bloomer -- doctors said last week that she was \o7still\f7 growing -- things changed as Dunham grew into her body and, more important, matured. She started having "great relationships" with her club basketball coaches who, she said, were "pointing out the little mistakes, not letting anything go, being very picky with my game."
"That criticism," she said, "made me work even harder to prove myself."
In truth, Dunham says she played with a chip on her shoulder, and still does.
She was a 5-foot-4 point guard as an eighth-grader at Windward, a private school for grades 7-12. She was 5-7 as a freshman, 6-0 as a junior.
As she grew, she retained the skills of a point guard, and \o7voila\f7, "the Magic Johnson effect," Windward Coach Steve Smith said.
"Learning the ball-handling, passing and decision-making skills are extremely important for a point guard, and growing as much as she did made Hailey that much better because now she can play inside and outside," Smith said. "Any time you have a 6-2 guard who can handle the ball and pass like Hailey can, that's a matchup nightmare."
Dunham, who has averaged 17.1 points, shares the backcourt with Erica Latimer, a Finnish emigrant who is a 6-1 guard and has signed with UCLA. Add sophomore Monica DeAngelis, who has benefited from the attention paid to Dunham and Latimer to make 115 three-pointers.
That combination has put Windward (29-3) in the Division IV state title game against San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral (31-2) at 4 p.m. today at Arco Arena in Sacramento. Dunham's Wildcats are ranked eighth in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. Sacred Heart Cathedral is fifth.
Her father was her biggest fan and harshest critic, even though his daughter was often two years younger than her competition while growing up.
"If I was hard on her, it was in the context of trying to find a way to get her to perform at her highest level," said Duwayne Dunham, whose directorial credits include the sports-themed movies "Right on Track," "Double Teamed" and "Little Giants."
"A lot of people would say that Hailey had such a great game, but I would say, 'To some extent that's true, but if you knew her potential, that wouldn't be the case.' "
Dunham was certainly special. When she was 7, her father said she could throw football spirals with both hands at the same time.
Windward lost in the section semifinals her first two years on varsity, and lost in the finals to Brentwood her junior season.
"When you're smacked with the reality that it's not your time," Hailey said, "it hurts."
Coupled with a poor performance over the summer by her club team, Dunham looked inward, and vowed to take her game to the next level. She took Windward with her.
The Wildcats beat Fullerton Troy, Long Beach Poly and Ventura over the summer, and Concord Carondelet, Spring Valley Mount Miguel and Santa Margarita during the regular season. They beat rival Brentwood four times, including in the Division IV-A final.
"The day after my club season ended was the day I became so focused and so motivated to prove to those people that I could do what they're saying I can't," Dunham said. "I went to my high school gym every day for two weeks straight and shot 500 shots a day. I felt I hadn't showed anybody what I can really do.
"I still feel like I haven't."