25th Anniversary Profile: Tony Dunkin

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – As part of the Big South Conference’s 25th Anniversary celebration in 2008-09, which is presented by Royal Purple, the Conference is profiling each week the Top 25 “Best of the Best” moments in League history.  This week’s feature is the Big South’s first men’s basketball superstar, Coastal Carolina’s Tony Dunkin.

A video vignette of Dunkin’s illustrious career, featuring comments from former Big South Commissioner Buddy Sasser, can be viewed on the Big South’s website, www.BigSouthSports.com, under the 25th Anniversary Media Center banner.  In addition, video vignettes around all the Top 25 “Best of the Best” moments are available for viewing online.

In 1993, Coastal Carolina’s Tony Dunkin made NCAA history when he became the first player in Division I men’s basketball to be honored as a Conference’s Player of the Year four times.  He earned the award from the 1989-90 season up through the 1992-93 campaign.  In addition to Dunkin, only 15 players have been named their League’s MVP three times.  Here is a closer look at the man from Rains, S.C. nicknamed “Slam” and “Hump” during his playing career.

Sitting out the first five games in 1989-90 after transferring from Jacksonville University, Dunkin made his freshman debut with Coastal Carolina on Dec. 9, 1989 at Georgia Tech, and his impact on the future of Chanticleer and Big South basketball was immediate, as he scored 22 points and shot 9-of-15 from the floor against the Yellow Jackets.  He later scored a career-high 28 points against Campbell on Feb. 1 and finished the season with averages of 18.1 points and 6.6 rebounds his first season.  Those numbers brought Dunkin the Big South Conference Player of the Year trophy, as well as the League’s first-ever Rookie of the Year award, as he led the Chanticleers to a Big South regular-season and tournament championship, as Coastal Carolina finished 11-1 in League play and 23-6 overall.  Dunkin also was named First-Team All-Conference and All-Tournament in 1989-90.

Dunkin’s sophomore season opened with preseason honorable mention All-American honors by Street & Smith’s, and he did not disappoint, as he averaged 18.0 points and 7.1 rebounds in 28 games, becoming the first player in Big South history to win back-to-back Player of the Year honors.  He was also voted First-Team All-Conference while establishing single-game career-highs in nearly every category in 1990-91, including 33 points vs. South Carolina State.  Coastal Carolina repeated as Big South regular-season and tournament champions with a 24-8 overall mark and 13-1 Big South record.  He was voted Big South Tournament MVP after scoring 57 points (19.0 per game) in leading the Chanticleers to the title.

Dunkin’s exploits would not go unnoticed that season, as his exciting game paralleled the Big South Conference’s growth on the national level.  In 1990-91 – just the sixth season of Big South men’s basketball, the Conference Championship game was televised for the first time on ESPN.  At the same time, the League’s men’s basketball champion was awarded a “play-in” game in 1991 against the champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.  The champion Chanticleers represented the Big South well and defeated Jackson State, 78-59 to secure the Conference’s first-ever berth in the Big Dance.

The Chanticleers were awarded a No. 15 seed in the 64-team bracket, and nearly upset No. 2 seed Indiana, falling by 10 points, 79-69.  Dunkin was limited to 11 points on 4-of-14 from the field, but teammate Brian Penny responded with 34 points on 13-of-15 shooting to keep the Chants close and the Coastal Carolina program on the minds of the country.

After two seasons at Coastal Carolina, Dunkin appeared in the NCAA Tournament, had scored in double figures in 48 of his 51 career games with the Chanticleers, including 19 career games with 20 points, and entered his junior season in 1991-92 again as a preseason All-American.  He reached new heights his junior year, averaging a career-best 22.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, while continuing to capture the awe of on-lookers.  Early in the season, Dunkin was selected to the Great Alaskan Shootout All-Tournament team and finished two points shy of the Great Alaskan Shootout scoring record (83 points).  He scored a career-high 36 points against Santa Clara in the event, which was one point shy of the tournament’s single-game record.  He also dropped in 33 points and 11 rebounds vs. Davidson and 28 points and 10 boards vs. College of Charleston.  Following that performance against the Cougars, CofC head coach John Kresse said of Dunkin:

“We have played a lot of good teams this season, including UNC Charlotte, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech, but Tony Dunkin is by far the best we have faced.  I was an assistant for the New Jersey Nets for three years, Tony would have played for us every year.  I may have even traded for him of he wasn’t on our side.”

Dunkin led Coastal Carolina in scoring in all 21 games he played in his junior season (he missed 10 games due to injury), and scored 20 points in a game 15 times, including 14 of his last 16 appearances.  He won his third Big South Player of the Year award, joining an elite group of college basketball greats to be so honored by their Conferences, including David Thompson, Ralph Sampson, Chris Mullin, Danny Manning, Wayman Tisdale and Pete Maravich.

Dunkin’s senior season was on center stage, as he was tabbed an honorable mention All-American and voted the ninth-best small forward in college basketball by NCAA Magazine.  The publication also called him one of the “Most Breathtaking Athletes” in the game.  All he did his senior year was lead Coastal Carolina to the Big South tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.  He averaged a career-best 23.7 points and surpassed 2,000 career points in his final season, en route to becoming the Big South’s all-time leading scorer with 2,151 – a record that lasted for 14 years.  On March 4, 1993, Dunkin officially became the first player in NCAA Division I history to earn four Conference Player of the Year awards.

His final collegiate game was against Michigan’s “Fab Five” in the NCAA Tournament, where he scored a team-high 17 points in the losing cause.  Dunkin was also invited to participate in the slam dunk portion of the annual College Basketball Slam Dunk & Three Point Shooting Championship during the 1993 Final Four – the first player to represent the Big South Conference at the event.  He concluded his career ranked among the top five in eight statistical categories, including field goals, free throws and rebounds.  Dunkin played professionally in the CBA and overseas after graduation, and in 2003-04, he was part of the 11-member inaugural class of the Big South Conference Hall of Fame, which was established that year as part of the Big South’s 20th Anniversary celebration.
   
Tony Dunkin is one of the Top 25 “Best of the Best” moments in League history.  The Conference is conducting an online fan poll to help determine the Top Moment in the first 25 years of the Big South Conference.  Voting is open on www.BigSouthSports.com and continues through March 25.  Fan voting will be combined with the 25th Anniversary Committee’s votes to come up with the official rank order of the “Best of the Best” moments.  The countdown will be unveiled at the concluding 25th Anniversary banquet in May.

(Portions of this profile provided by Coastal Carolina’s Athletics Media Relations Office).

Next week’s featured “Best of the Best” moment and vignette:  Liberty Women’s Basketball Sensation Katie Feenstra.