Big East previews: Kris Dunn is back, now can he make Providence better?

Kris Dunn, on passing up a shot at the NBA: 'I wasn't leaving. I have responsibilities.'

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NEW YORK — Kris Dunn leaned forward and looked his interviewer right in the eye.

"I have no idea where that stuff came from,” the Providence guard said. "I was never thinking about leaving for the NBA.”

Never?

"No,” Dunn said. "Just ask my family. I have two sisters (Ashley, 14 and Ariana, 13) that look up to me. I wasn’t leaving. I have responsibilities.”

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Responsibilities? What responsibilities couldn’t be mitigated by lottery pick money?

Dunn didn’t exactly grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. Sometimes he didn’t even have a meal. He played card games, dice games (with loaded dice) and games of 1-on-1 for money when he was a youngster just so he could eat. 

No, Dunn didn’t go to the NBA because, well, he wasn’t done with what he calls his "responsibilities."

"I don’t want to just make it to the NBA,” Dunn said. "When I get there, I want to stay there. There are a lot things in my game that need improving. I’ve only played one year of college basketball. How good could I be?”

Well, based on that one year, pretty damn good.

After shoulder injuries and surgery wiped out his first two seasons, Dunn became the first guard ever to win Big East Player of the Year (shared with Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono) and Defensive Player of the Year by averaging 15.6 points, 7.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game.

His coach, Ed Cooley, said if Dunn was his son, he would have told him to go pro.

So why didn’t he go? Dunn, who can get his degree in social sciences, leans forward again.

"You know, I’ve been injured,” he says. "What if something happens again and I don’t have my degree? I can get my degree. I can become a better player. I can make my family proud.”

Dunn’s return is a big reason why the Friars were voted fifth in the league coaches’ preseason poll. He’ll have to be better than he was last season because Providence lost a lot, especially swingman LaDontae Henton.

Cooley recalled a somewhat surreal conversation with Dunn.

"He says he’s coming back and I say, ‘We need you to be better,”’ Cooley said. "He said, ‘That’s why I’m coming back.”’