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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Corona Centennial's Dominique Dunning gives his all all the time

His self-motivation to be the best on the court is what makes him one of the five best basketball players in the Southland. His versatility is going to make him an effective college player.

January 09, 2011|Eric Sondheimer

During the summer, when Corona Centennial Coach Josh Giles held early morning practices and would arrive at 6:45 a.m. to open the gym, usually waiting for him was Dominique Dunning, who was like a puppy wagging its tail as the gym lights came flickering to life.

The opportunity to play basketball is Dunning's daily treat. Whether at practice or during a game, his passion and commitment is as visible as the disgust he shows when a teammate isn't giving his best.

"I just play as hard as I can whenever I'm on the floor," he said. "I don't like to be second."

His love and appreciation for the game can be seen in how he dives for loose balls, hustles to play defense and how he calls others to action with a nonverbal display that sends a clear message to pick it up.

"There's sometimes I get a little riled up," the 6-foot-4 senior said. "I'm so into the game. Coach says he'd rather have to bring me down than get me up for a game."

Some are impressed with Dunning's scoring ability. He leads the Huskies (12-3) with a 21.5-point scoring average and has more than 1,500 points in his career. Some like his versatility. He can play shooting guard, point guard, small forward and center.

To me, what makes Dunning one of the five best basketball players in the Southland is the way he never forgets to uphold his promise to give his best whenever he steps onto the court. That self-motivation can't be taught at a coaching clinic or duplicated in a petri dish. It's what every coach wishes from a player, and it's embedded in Dunning's DNA.

"I want to give 100% effort because you never know when your last game is," he said. "I'm not just playing for myself. I'm playing for my teammates, my family and everybody who supports me and are on my side. I don't want to let them down and most importantly, I don't want to let myself down."

And so you have a player whose mental outlook combined with his improving basketball skills make him a pleasure to watch.

He came to Centennial after his freshman year not being a good shooter. Then he put in the work, such as 500 shots a day, and last season he was the team's most accurate shooter from three-point range.

It's fitting that the college he signed with, New Mexico, is coached by Steve Alford, whose coach in college was Bob Knight. There's no doubt Dunning could have played for Knight at Indiana.

What's going to make Dunning an effective college player is his versatility. He has been guarding taller players since he was a youngster, considering he said he grew up the youngest among a family of some 15 cousins and brothers, requiring him to show fortitude and ingenuity.

At Centennial, which has little size, Dunning is frequently called upon to guard the opposing team's tallest player. On offense, he plays anywhere and everywhere.

"He plays every single position every game," Giles said. "We run a lot of plays and a lot of sets and he has to know all of them from all five spots, and he does."

For a fan watching from the bleachers, it's refreshing to see a teenager giving his all at a time when too many athletes decide to take plays off.

"It's a feeling I don't get from anything else," Dunning said about playing basketball. "No matter how many games I play or how many minutes I'm on the court, it's always a new feeling. It's like nothing I've felt before. Everything around me is gone. It's like I'm a fish in water."

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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