His new life as a college guy begins soon. His work here is done. Except for high school graduation. But before Kris Dunn leaves us, all the way maybe to the NBA one day, we owe him this much:
Perhaps you consider it fawning, or just odd, that an adult would bother to thank a high school kid anymore. We're supposed to tolerate them and educate them, not gush over them. But Dunn's four years at New London High produced crowds, games and circumstances that grew in proportion to time's passage.
And whether it was the full houses at Conway Gym and Mohegan Sun Arena, trips to New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, knockout games, culmination games, double-overtime games or just an opportunity to get out of the house on a Friday night (and perhaps get to Mr. G's after), I kept thinking the following:
Every night we watched Dunn play, we were lucky to be in that place at that time. And we should have been smart enough to know that we ought to have enjoyed it. Because when do we ever see McDonald's All-Americans here? Even better: A McDonald's All-American who was neither coddled nor self-entitled and whose only objective was to make sure the other team lost.
Dunn's significance has layers, much like an artichoke. Keep peeling and there's more and more. He wasn't just an elite player on an elite team. His presence had tentacles.
We can start here at America's most underrated newspaper/web site. New London basketball is always a story around here. But it was more than that in Dunn's time. By his senior year, his star helped ignite the idea here to stream games live on theday.com. It wasn't just observers from around here that began to watch.
Curious eyes watched from other parts of the state.
Hopeful eyes watched from Providence College, whose fans followed Dunn's games faithfully.
And it was a great success for us.
Suddenly, we were getting … compliments. Who knew? Trips to the store, tavern, barbershop or diner weren't met with the typical greetings, which, when you work here, usually begin one of four ways:
"How come you didn't cover … "
"Why didn't you cover … "
"I don't understand why you guys don't … "
Streaming games was a hit. Readers/viewers began to expect it. They even critiqued a few, offered some suggestions. It was magnificent.
And it all started because the Whalers had this marquee kid.
New London's reputation, too, has been fortified throughout Connecticut and New England. Surely, observers of high school basketball have always known New London's tradition. Just remember: New London is still east of the river. In Connecticut high school sports, "east of the river" is a euphemism for "Rhode Island."
So in spite of all New London's success, its location, location, location necessitates the occasional championship team to remind the masses that the program isn't ready for the rocking chair. The Whalers are known throughout the state now, better than ever. And while Dunn was not singlehandedly responsible for the No. 1 rankings and 2011 state title, he was the face most associated with them.
Dunn's presence encouraged so many different people to watch games at New London High. College coaches noticed his teammates. Even casual sports fans knew Kris Dunn.
It's really when sports are at their best.
There's no need to remind Dunn of his roots. He'll never forget where he came from. Nor should he. Because he was treated well here. That's because a sense of decency isn't always a byproduct of a marvelous talent. It was with him.
So now he's off to Providence to play for good guy Ed Cooley, who will take good care of him.
So once again: Thanks, kid.
And know that they'll always leave the light on for you in the 06320.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.