Commentary

Dunigan hopes to realize NBA dream

Updated: June 22, 2011, 10:47 PM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Michael Dunigan isn't worried where he may or may not be selected in Thursday's NBA draft.

Dunigan, a Chicago native, has always prided himself on his ability to adapt, and he sees the draft as one more situation for which he'll have to put that talent to use. Whether he's taken in the second round -- which is where his agent has heard is a possibility -- or goes undrafted, Dunigan will make do.

Even throughout his workouts the past two months with a variety of NBA teams, the 6-10, 237-pound Dunigan has never been one to get too high or low about where his draft stock may be.

"I just take it as it is," said Dunigan, who starred at Farragut High School in Chicago. "The saying is, 'It is what it is.' I just go into things and do what I can do. Whatever happens, happens out of it. I don't have any ups or down about the situation."

[+] EnlargeDunigan
Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.comMichael Dunigan is hoping a year in Europe has prepared him for the NBA.

Dunigan has had to adjust plenty over the past year and a half.

Following Dunigan's sophomore season at Oregon, Ducks coach Ernie Kent was fired and was replaced by Dana Altman. Dunigan decided in September he would not return to Oregon and signed a professional contract with Hapoel Migdal in Jerusalem.

There has been some question whether Dunigan would have been able to play if he had remained at Oregon. The school conducted an internal investigation into the eligibility of a few basketball players, including Dunigan, and turned over information to the NCAA. The NCAA has asked to speak with Dunigan, but he has no interest in doing so.

Dunigan has denied any wrongdoing at Oregon and said his decision to go pro came down to his own happiness.

"I let the new coaches come in," said Dunigan, who had averaged nine points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as a sophomore. "I met the coach [Altman], and he seemed like a nice guy. Everything was fine. Then, I kind of wasn't feeling it. I wouldn't say it was him. It was me, more myself. With half the team being gone, I didn't know who he was brining in the door. They cancelled the trip to Italy, which was a big part of everything. I figured the program was probably going downhill, and I made a personal decision to go.

"It's a personal decision. What's going to make happy? Me staying there I figured I wouldn't be happy there. My best decision was to leave. I wouldn't be comfortable with transferring and sitting out a year because that's not what I wanted to do. I figured I'd just leave and go pro."

Dunigan's professional career started off slow. He rarely saw playing time in Jerusalem, and after two months he was loaned out to Kalev/Cramo in Estonia. Again, he had to adapt.

In Estonia, Dunigan was given an opportunity to play, and he took full advantage of it. He averaged 12.5 points, eight rebounds, 1.9 blocks and shot 58.6 percent from the field in 18 games and helped Kalev/Cramo to the league championship. Dunigan was named to the Eurobasket.com all-Estonian first-team.

Dunigan also dropped 20-plus pounds in Estonia from his sophomore year at Oregon and started showing NBA scouts why he was so highly rated and a McDonald's All-American in high school.

"I think he just got away from the chaos that was surrounding him," Dunigan's agent Mike Naiditch said. "Overall, the pressure. There's a lot of pressure in school to get grades, which he did fine at, but it's still pressure. His lack of production in college compared to the expectations probably weighed on him. His body literally weighed on him.

"I think getting away sometimes is the break somebody needs, to start over without any pressure. I think that's what's helped him a lot."

Dunigan definitely felt more was at stake when he played overseas.

"It's just a different mindset when you get over there," Dunigan said. "You feel like you're fighting for something now. This is what you want to do for you living. You have to prove it."

Dunigan felt playing overseas especially helped his pick-and-roll defense, his lateral movement and getting up and down the floor with his team.

ATTACK Athletics director of basketball operations Mike Procopio has trained Dunigan the last two years in Chicago and believed he had a shot at making in the NBA.

"He's a young talent," said Procopio, who was a former scout for the Boston Celtics. "He's a young big. He's got good physical tools as far as his size and length. He still needs to develop, but he can still develop. He'll need to be a junkyard dog. He'll have to defense, block shots, rebound, run the floor."

Dunigan will watch the draft with his mother and Naiditch in Chicago on Thursday. Like everything else, he wasn't stressing himself about it.

"I have a clear mind about [the draft,]" he said. " I'm not cocky about it. Wherever I go, I go, and I'll be happy about it."

Scott Powers covers prep and college sports for ESPNChicago.com.

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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