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Kellen Dunham Fueled by Faith

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Kellen Dunham is off to another record setting season for the Butler Bulldogs and sits amongst the offensive leaders in the Big East Conference. For those on the outside looking in at the Bulldogs, the early success is somewhat of a revelation as Butler was predicted to finish tied for seventh with Marquette in the preseason coaches’ poll. The early success for Dunham comes as no surprise for Butler fans.

Photo: Butler Athletics/Kellen Dunham (Brent Smith)
Photo: Butler Athletics/Kellen Dunham (Brent Smith)

Many know of the late night shooting stories from last year and the decision to forswear Mountain Dew consumption this year by the 6’6 junior from Pendleton Heights. While Kellen continues to lead the Bulldogs on the court by putting in the same effort each summer, Dunham would tell you that his growth spiritually is an important way to define the next chapters in his life.

This past summer, Kellen Dunham joined current and former collegiate athletes from across the United States on a basketball team touring with Athletes in Action. Assembled in late July, the team embarked on a 12-day basketball tour of the Philippines, a tradition that has taken place for over 30 years.

I recently had the privilege to talk to Dunham about all the hard work and effort he has put in to become the leader he is now. The new shots in his arsenal, like the step back jumper, have been on full display this season after rigorous work on the court.

“What I learned over there, playing with guys that are so good, I was able to work on the shots I have been working on all summer,” said Dunham.  “I’ve hit it a few times already this season, my step-back. Over there it was working really well. That and getting around the basket for floaters, that’s what helped me so much. Just playing a different style of basketball always helps you grow.”

Athletes in Action (AIA) is the athletics branch of Campus Crusade for Christ International. AIA’s range of outreach includes ministry to college and professional athletes and coaches globally across numerous sports. International competing teams partner with in-country staff and other mission organizations to resource Christian ministry around the world. While Dunham enjoyed focusing his time on the court crafting his game, the junior guard was quick to note just how important his time off the court was, growing and developing spiritually with Athletes in Action.

“Yeah, that and just trying to be a better leader, like going overseas with Athletes in Action and some off the court stuff that I could bring on the court in a way,” noted Dunham. “Intangibles and things like that as well as getting my shot prepared, like mentally, being ready to take shots and getting back to what I am best at.”

The time spent in the Philippines not only gave Dunham a chance to work on his newly- perfected fade-away jump shot, but also a new sense and understanding of the game. Kellen feels his new mindset and sense of peace has been instrumental in his success as Butler battles through a season in the Big East Conference.

“Personally, I’ve noticed it a lot more,” said Kellen. “The peace that God gives you, you don’t get too high or too low. You’re always even-keeled because you know that He loves you and everything you do. That’s reassuring and, as much as I can, I’m just trying to rub that off on my teammates. We will try to get chapel going here soon and then I would like to get them involved more in Athletes in Action. I think it will help us more with our confidence and humility. All the Butler values are talked about in Athletes in Action.”

Off the court, the message is the same for Dunham. A sense of faith at all times is important to Kellen, who actively works to share that message with his teammates and with other student-athletes.

“The whole first semester, me and Steven (Bennett) would get together with one of our mentors and talk about things like that,” said Dunham. Wednesday nights I will go to AIA and speak with other student-athletes about it, which is very interesting to see their story and perspective on everything as well as going to church and getting into scripture. I think it really helps me after I have a good game really individually to think ‘what am I here for, what is my purpose?’ It’s not just to score points; it’s to be a window for Jesus. That helps with the humility aspect as well.”

And when Kellen embarks on a new mission away from Butler, he will share everything he has learned to all those around him, an important value in the Butler Way.

“Wherever I go, play professionally, bringing that to my team and being able to change people’s lives in that aspect is the biggest way I can contribute.”

Whether Kellen Dunham plays professionally or not, he will use the podium God grants him to not only connect with his teammates and other student-athletes, but to the community around him and across the world with Athletes in Action.

Chris Fultz is a senior writer for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler Athletics and has full media access. Follow @CafultzISR and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter.

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