By CHRIS TODD
SIOUX RAPIDS - Some people are born to play basketball, but former Sioux Central athlete Alex Dunn didn't appear to be one of them - until after his freshman year in high school.
As a ninth grader, Dunn was 6-foot-2 and played shooting guard for the Rebels' freshman team. Then fate intervened in the form of a seven-inch growth spurt. He went from a guard his freshman season to 6-foot-9 post player his sophomore year.
By the time he was a senior at Sioux Central, he was nearly seven-feet tall and his coordination had caught up with all that growth.
During his senior year (1999-2000), Dunn averaged 24 points per game, 12 rebounds pg. and six blocks per contest.
Though the Rebels finished the season just over the .500 mark, Dunn was a first-team all -state pick by the Des Moines Register. Suddenly, he had Division I college recruiters pounding down his family's door in Sioux Rapids. He eventually chose to attend the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
"He was sold on Wyoming after his campus visit there," Alex's dad Randy told the Pilot-Tribune Tuesday night.
Alex was shown around the campus by Wyoming's junior guard Josh Davis, who was a member of the Cowboy team that upset Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the year before. Wyoming lost by just six points to Lute Olson's Arizona team in the second round.
Like most Division I freshmen, Dunn was redshirted. He endured a lot of bench time his redshirt freshman and sophomore years, but started at center during his junior and senior seasons. Both years, he averaged about ten points and nine rebounds per game. After his senior year, he gained honorable mention to the All-Mountain West Conference team.
Though Dunn wasn't picked in the NBA draft, he did hire two agents with the idea of continuing his basketball career.
Dunn opted to play in Europe, where many Americans hone their basketball skills in hopes of eventually landing an NBA contract.
With the help of his agents, he signed with the Energa Czarni team in Slupsk, Poland, located in the northern part of the country that borders the Baltic Sea.
Alex left for Poland at the end of August with his wife Katie, a former Miss Wyoming whom he had met at the University in Laramie.
"They were married on August 5, and left for Poland three weeks later," Randy said. "They both like it there, and Alex is having a good year with the team."
As of last week, Alex's team had a 7-5 record and was in fourth place in the Polish basketball standings. He was one of the top-rated players in the league by averaging 11 points and 9 rebounds per game. He's Energa's starting center and plays over 30 minutes per contest.
"Alex says the Polish League isn't as good as the NBA, but that it's on par or a little above America's Division I college level," Randy Dunn said.
Each Polish team is allowed three 'imports,' most of whom are former Division I American players.
Alex also told his father that Polish basketball fans take their teams' games more seriously than American fans do.
"He says it gets pretty wild in the stands, with fans standing up the whole game, yelling at the tops of their lungs and waving team flags all over the place," Randy said.
The only drawback so far is the officiating on the road.
"When Alex's team plays an away game, the Americans usually get in foul trouble," Randy said, adding that its clear referees aren't fond of American 'imports.'
Alex hopes his team plays well in the Polish League playoffs and qualifies for the European playoffs, where the top team from each European country vie for top honors.
Ultimately, Alex hopes to play in the NBA. This summer, he'll play in an NBA summer league and attend a few NBA tryout camps.
Should Alex fall short of his basketball ambitions, he and his wife are well-prepared. Alex has a B.A degree in Business Administration while his wife majored in Genetics and Molecular Biology at Wyoming.
"This has been a great experience for both of them," Randy said. "They were surprised that Poland is just as modern as the U.S.
"They have cable TV, fast food franchises and all that. But you can go to parts of the city where you might see a church that is 500 years old."
Still, Randy said, "Alex and his wife will be glad to get home." Meanwhile, his son is still pursuing his basketball dream.
"He always says "playing basketball for a living definitely beats working at a real job,'" Randy said with a chuckle.