St. Francis frosh doing hometown proud

Not quite Dunn: Terriers freshman Rasheem Dunn has had a breakout season, but the Bedford-Stuyvesant native is still working to improve his game.
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He’s always known what he was capable of — now he’s just proving it.

Rasheem Dunn has played in just a handful of college basketball games, but the St. Francis freshman and former Thomas Jefferson star isn’t letting his age hold him back. He’s always been confident in his game, certain of his jumpshot and his on-court ability, and despite minimal experience at the Division-I level, Dunn is showing just what he can do with a ball in his hands — a lot.

“I knew where I was putting myself and where I could go,” Dunn said. “Coach knows the talent I bring and the scoring I bring and the defense I can bring. I wasn’t surprised at all to see this role kind of play out.”

In his first 16 games, Dunn averaged 12.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in just over 28 minutes of work. It’s an efficient stat line, but one that has existed on a bit of a learning curve.

Dunn is, after all, still a freshman, and he’s learned quickly that the college game is quite a bit different than anything he experienced at Jefferson.

“In the beginning of the season, it was tough, and I didn’t know what it took to win games, but as the season’s going on, I know what it takes,” he said. “It’s all about defense. It’s not about worrying about the offensive end — it’s the defensive game.”

Dunn grew up focused on getting his shot — he scored double figures in 12 of his first 16 games — but he’s learned quickly that he needs to be even more focused on his defense.

He’s not the only scoring threat on the court anymore — everyone can put the ball in the hoop at this level. The difference, and what’s helped the Terriers win games, is who can slow down their opponents. Dunn is determined to make sure it’s him.

“You can’t ever let up,” he said. “In high school, you can let up for a play or two and you’ll be fine. In college, if your man sees that you’re not playing defense, then you’ll get beat every time.”

Dunn hit his stride in the last few weeks, but the start of his college career was far from perfect. St. Francis has struggled throughout the season — dropping its last four games after opening league play with back-to-back overtime victories.

Dunn, however, has done his best to remain confident. He scored a team-high 21 points against Long Island University on Jan. 14, notching his first collegiate start in the cross-borough matchup. It’s a trend he hopes will continue throughout the remainder of the season.

“We’re a young team with lots of new faces, so we didn’t really know how to play with each other,” Dunn said. “As the season’s gone on, we came together and those games we lost got put behind us. We’re just focusing on a winning mindset.”

Dunn knows there’s still plenty of room for growth in his game — he’s far from the shutdown defender he wants to be, and he wouldn’t mind notching a few more baskets each game either — but he’s excited to do it in front of his hometown crowd. The Bedford-Stuyvesant native always wanted to stay close to home, and the chance to shine a spotlight on city hoops has been his goal for as long as he can remember.

“It means a lot,” Dunn said. “I had a good career in high school. I wanted to be seen in New York, and I still want to. I want to help create a winning team here at St. Francis.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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