A rebounding, shot-blocking and scoring threat for Barton Community College’s men’s basketball team the past two seasons, Dwayne Brunson signed on Tuesday to play at NCAA Division-II Fort Hays State University.
Brunson was also recruited by Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association foe Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo. But he was already sold on playing at FHSU, just an hour away from Great Bend.
“He’s definitely a Division I talent,” Barton head coach Craig Fletchall said of the 6-foot-7 sophomore power forward from Queens, N.Y. “He’s had different levels of recruitment the two years that he has been here.
“He would have gone to summer school (to qualify for NCAA Division-I). He would just as soon get it over with and go to a good D-II program. The MIAA is a good conference, and they get a lot of D-I transfers.”
Brunson averaged 17.4 points and 10 rebounds this past season for the Cougars, who posted a 26-7 record before falling to Cowley County in the semifinals of the NJCAA Region VI playoffs in March.
An explosive leaper, always active around the basket, Brunson had 16 double-doubles during the 2011-12 season, accumulating 301 rebounds and 87 blocked shots — both team highs — while pouring in 522 points, second on the team.
“It’s just a natural feel for the game, that’s what it is,” Brunson said of his propensity for dominating a game with scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking. “I just go out there and have fun and play the game.
“I have a lot of Kansas fans, and I feel like Kansas is the place I need to be. I’ve already been here for two years, so why not move on to something bigger and better. I think it’s a good fit for me.”
Brunson’s host for his visits at Fort Hays was none other than Tigers graduating post player Matt Simmons, a Great Bend native and part of recent GBHS Class 5A state tournament teams, who garnered MIAA Defensive Player of the Year honors.
“Matt showed him around as his host,” Fletchall said. “I think he’s in a comfort zone out here. The higher up you get, the bigger the post players are going to be at the next level. I think he’s come a long ways.
“They’re going to be thin in the post next year and Dwayne knows that he can step in and start and play for them.”
Brunson had a rocky road at the outset of the conference season, serving a two-game suspension after getting ejected, along with former Dodge City player James Milton, during a game in Dodge City.
After Brunson was reinstated, the Cougars, who were ranked in the national poll for 10 straight weeks, were able to hit their stride.
Without him, it would have been hard to have the type of season they had, including beating No. 5-ranked Coffeyville in the Region VI quarterfinals.
“I just felt like my team and the coaches felt like I belonged on the team,” Brunson said, “so I just wanted to play a part and do what I was supposed to do and help the team go as far as possible.
“I know I have parts of my game that I need to unleash and have to work on.”
That said, it looks as if he’s found the right fit at Fort Hays.