D’Marco Dunn’s Sixth Man Role Proving Essential For Penn State Hoops’ Success

Fifteen games into the season, Penn State’s men’s basketball has been an up-and-down group. At times, it looks like it can handle anyone it plays. Other times, it looks like one of the worst teams in college basketball.

It’s been a whirlwind of a year that started when Mike Rhoades was hired in March, and he went on a quest to build a team for the 2023-24 season.

He retained second-year guard Kanye Clary who blossomed into one of the best players in all of the Big Ten. After Sunday’s win over Michigan, Clary is averaging 18.4 points per game which puts him fifth overall in the Big Ten.

Ace Baldwin Jr. and Qudus Wahab have also stood as top guys for the team as they land as the second and third leading scorers, respectively, and Baldwin leads the team in steals with 38.

D’Marco Dunn, however, recently took a massive step for the Nittany Lions this season and has provided them with a huge spark as they enter the heart of Big Ten play.

Dunn, a transfer guard from North Carolina, joined fellow former Tar Heel teammate Puff Johnson in transferring to Penn State to join Rhoades’ program. At the time, and heading into the season, Johnson seemed like the guy who was the big ticket pickup for the Nittany Lions, and Dunn was merely a nice addition, too

Dunn has proven how great of a scorer and playmaker he can be. This season, Dunn is averaging 7.4 points and shooting 35% from three, and in the last six games, he’s averaging 12 points a game.

Dunn has become the team’s sixth man. He’s one of the first guys off the bench and is often who Rhoades turns to when the team is in need of a momentum shift. His scoring has been huge for Penn State and kept the team in several recent games.

Just over a month ago, however, that was almost the exact opposite. In an overtime loss to Maryland, Dunn played a total of just one minute in the entire game, and no injury was reported during or after the game. The next game, Dunn went off for 16 points and was a huge part of the Nittany Lions’ win over Ohio State.

“I think D’Marco is going to continue to be a really good player for us. He just has to. He just has to continue to put himself out there and get better and better,” Rhoades said after the Ohio State win. “He wasn’t ready to play against Maryland, and I really got on him about that.”

He’s been the spark the Nittany Lion offense needed in the past number of games, coming up big in comeback wins against Ohio State and Michigan at The Palestra.

Dunn went on a huge 8-0 run on his own, hitting two huge triples and grabbing a steal and layup that gave the Nittany Lions the lead in the game. It was the big push that helped Penn State pick up the win.

“I think [Dunn] can do this all the time,” Rhoades said. “He wasn’t in that role before, and as we’re moving along, he’s getting better and better at it. So he’s a very talented scorer.”

Since the Maryland outing, Dunn has been on fire, scoring in the double-digits five of six times, including dropping a career-high 17 points in the Nittany Lions’ 82-81 loss to Georgia Tech. All season long, Rhoades preached about giving his guys the green light to shoot, even if they’re in slumps, and Dunn has been the prime example of that strategy playing out.

Moving forward, Dunn will be relied on to keep the offense moving and pick up players when they go through cold stretches, and with the Nittany Lions set to play Northwestern, No. 1 Purdue, and No. 21 Wisconsin over their next three games, they’ll need Dunn to stay hot.

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About the Author

Matt Brown

Matt is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in sports studies from Bensalem, Pa. Matt is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and an overall sports fan in general. When not watching sports, you'll find him taking down any Dollar Dog challenge or rewatching the Big Ten Maps Commercial. To reach him, follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @matt_brown63, or email him at [email protected].

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