The Pitt women’s basketball team bolstered its strength down low by adding Washington, Pa. native Mary Dunn via the transfer portal last month following five seasons at Youngstown State.
While Dunn told Pittsburgh Sports Now all of the factors that played into her decision to leave YSU, it was clear that one key motivator stood out from the rest: the opportunity to come home.
“I’m from the Pittsburgh area, so it would be really cool to be able to come home and play in front of a crowd I grew up playing with from high school basketball to the community,” said Dunn. “I really feel like, at home, not just because I’m from Pittsburgh, but also just the environment they have.”
The feel of the Panthers’ program helped Dunn’s transition feel natural instead of awkward, as some transfer players may experience when pursuing greener pastures. Dunn credited Lance White and the entire Pitt staff for knowing how to make everyone involved with the program feel welcome, no matter how long they have been with the team.
“Right from the start, I just feel like I’m already at home,” she said. “Feeling so welcomed really means a lot to me, I’m not as nervous as I would normally be.”
Going home and getting the chance to play in front of waves of family and friends was clearly appealing to Dunn, and so was the chance to take a step up from a competition standpoint. Although the Horizon League is a respected mid-major conference with some great talent, Dunn is intrigued to test herself against the top teams and players in the nation. The 6-foot-3 forward realizes that she might not be the tallest girl on the floor anymore, which makes her eager to expand her game.
“When you go to the ACC, there’s these really big, athletic strong girls and I think that I just kind of have to elevate my game on my level.”
A look of excitement crossed Dunn’s face with each mention of playing ACC teams, even the heavyweights of the conference like Louisville and North Carolina State. Dunn is more motivated than intimidated by what stands before her come the fall. Her main aspiration as a Panther is to prove that she can play at the highest level possible for a women’s college basketball player.
“I think it will definitely be a challenge, but that was what I wanted to do when I was leaving. I was really content at Youngstown and I felt like I had accomplished everything I could here (Youngstown). So, I wanted to make that step to the next level. Every day I have been working to try and get stronger and faster cause that’s what I am going to come against. I feel like in the Horizon League it wasn’t as much of a challenge for me anymore, and I think having that challenge is really going to push me to be better.”
On the court, Dunn averaged 11 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while at Youngstown State. What cannot be seen in a box score, however, is the leadership qualities that come with having Dunn on the team. She was a team captain for three of the seasons that she spent with the Penguins and wants to help the younger players within the Pitt program grow next season.
“We always have a lot of new players coming into Youngstown and that was, what I would say, I’m most proud of over my experience. Not the awards or the success we had, but just the way I was able to help develop younger players and help them feel more comfortable.”
The interesting part about the addition of Dunn is that she will go from being an established member of the YSU roster to being the new kid on the block at Pitt. Though talks with the team indicated that the coaching staff wants her to be a leader, Dunn does not want to overstep any boundaries and looks forward to earning the respect of her new teammates.
“I know I only have one year, so I definitely want to go in and be able to make a difference off the court, too, and as a leader. I’m also aware that you have to work your way in, I definitely don’t want to go in and step on anyone’s shoes or anything.”