Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Mariah, Mariah: Freshman phenom

If you look up "versatility" in the dictionary, don't be surprised if you see University of Wisconsin freshman Mariah Dunham's picture next to it.

As a high school player in Watertown, Dunham played all five positions for the Goslings.

"I was pretty much all over," Dunham said. "I guess you could say I played a little bit of the point guard position. A lot of the time I was a post, a four position like I am now. I played (center) sometimes too."


Dunham's ability to play every position on the court during her high school years caught the eyes of several college coaches, including UW head coach Lisa Stone.

"You watch her and you're thinking, 'That kid can play anywhere,'" Stone said. "She can play inside, she can play outside. She loves to play."

Stone wasn't the only coach in Wisconsin to take notice. In fact, Dunham almost ended up playing for Marquette before finally deciding to sign with the Badgers.

"It was really narrowed down to Marquette and Madison," Dunham said. "For a while it was actually Marquette, but then I came here, and I went on a visit. I went to a football game, and I just saw all the fans. I saw how everyone supports the Badgers. They're just big fans here. I love that feeling."

With an average 16.8 points, 12 rebounds and six assists per game as a senior, Dunham was honored with several awards to round out her high school career. She was named the 2006 Associated Press Player of the Year and was a Street and Smith honorable mention. She was also selected as first team all-state her sophomore through senior seasons. Although she had built up an impressive résumé before setting foot on the Kohl Center floor, Dunham acknowledges that the actual awards aren't what made her into the player she has become.

"I guess awards were really nice to have," Dunham said. "I was really thankful for them. But they don't really do anything — they just were there. It's an honor to be named player of the year and everything, but I guess it was more of the playing experience that got me to be where I am now."

Where she is now is impressive. As a freshman, she is third on the team in scoring, averaging 7.9 points and 5.1 boards per game. Whether as a starter or coming off the bench, Dunham has often been able to provide a third source of scoring aside from junior guards Jolene Anderson and Janese Banks.

"Other teams are focusing on Janese and I, so we are going to need another player to step up, and it has been Mariah," Anderson said. "She's done a great job. She's answered the call that the coaching staff has put in front of her."

Stone feels that a good amount of Dunham's scoring has come from her ability to come down with offensive rebounds and create second-chance points.

"If she can continue to get on the offensive glass, that takes pressure off of trying to find your own shot or create your own shot," Stone said. "She's such a good offensive rebounder, has a nose for the basketball, and knows the game. … That's when she's at her best. It's when she's really on the offensive glass."

Listed anywhere between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3 for the Badgers, Dunham has been proficient as both a post player and guard for Wisconsin. Teammate Danielle Ward, who played against Dunham in AAU basketball several years ago, feels that teams may underestimate Dunham's ability at either position, providing her with chances to score.

"As a guard, she can post up," Ward said. "She's able to drive as a post and get contact and shoot the 3s when they say, 'Oh, she's a (post), she might not shoot it.'"

Anderson has also noticed an improvement in Dunham's post game. Although often undersized for the position, Dunham uses her versatility to outplay her opponent.

"Offensively, she's not just settling for the 3-point shot or the outside jumper," Anderson said. "She's got some great post moves for an undersized post player. She's stepped up her game to the next level."

That next level for Dunham has been a starter for the Badgers, a position that she was not in at the beginning of the season. With her strong play, however, Dunham has started nine of the team's games, including the last four contests, and will no doubt battle for a starting spot next season.

"What Mariah's contributed to this team is unbelievable," Stone said. "I'm so happy that she's on our team because she's not only a great player, but a great person. She's easy-going, relaxes us all, is funny and she keeps everybody loose in the locker room, and I think on the court, too, with her charismatic play."

For Dunham, the transition between high school and college ball took a bit of time to get used to, but she feels like she has found her niche with the Badgers and continues to gain confidence with each and every game.

"I definitely feel confident with and without the ball," Dunham said. "The first couple of games I had to get it going to get the feel of what Big Ten basketball was like. I've got it down, I think, but I'm still learning every day."

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