BRADFORD – The Bradford boys basketball team is under new leadership this season as Dante Dunston takes over as the Railroaders’ new head coach.
Dunston, who originally is from Dallas, came to Ohio on a basketball scholarship at Shawnee State University. He played four years of college basketball for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II program, starting 27 of the Bears’ 29 games as a senior and averaging 10.2 points per game.
He spent last season as the freshman boys basketball coach and a varsity assistant at Linden-McKinley in Columbus before being named the Bradford varsity head coach this year to replace Mackenzie Perry, who now is the head coach at Tri-Village.
“Things are going really well,” Dunston said of his new job at Bradford. “They’re really great kids. They enjoy working hard. Things are going great.”
Dunston inherits a program that has eight seniors this season: Jake Barga, Andy Branson, Johnny Fike, Clay Layman, Dialaquan Millhouse, Josh Phillips, Christian Ross and Parker Smith.
“We have a lot of seniors,” Dunston said. “All of them are just exceeding my expectations for improvement.”
Junior Andrew Moyer, junior Terrick Yohey, sophomore Kegan Fair, sophomore Gaven Trevino, freshman Austin Crickmore, freshman Connor Jones and freshman Gage Wills round out Bradford’s varsity roster.
Having so many veterans on the team is extremely valuable, Dunston said, as it’s like having coaches on the floor to lead the younger players.
“We do have a lot of nice veteran leadership,” Dunston said. “They mesh really well. It does good for their team chemistry on and off the floor.”
At this point Dunston is unsure of his starting lineup, which actually could change throughout the season as players earn minutes from their performance in practices and games.
“Still even now it’s really early,” Dunston said. “I do everything based on performance in practice and performance in the game.”
Bradford does have some talent to build around as three of the top four scorers from last season return to the Railroaders this season. A year ago Branson led the team with 15.4 points a game, Smith was second with 11.0 points a game, and Phillips was fourth with 6.9 points a game.
Phillips led the Railroaders with 5.5 rebounds a game last year while Branson was second on the team with 3.4 boards a game.
Branson also is the team’s top returning distributor after averaging 2.1 assists a game last season. Smith added 2.0 assists a game a year ago.
At the moment, Dunston sees a number of players who could step up and have big nights for the Railroaders.
“Our team seems really balanced, which is great,” he said. “It seems any given night any of our kids can score 15, 16 points a night.”
Bradford will look to play with a fast-paced tempo this season and utilize a motion offense.
“I’m sure things will change as different defenses are thrown at us, but we definitely want to run an up-tempo offense this year,” Dunston said.
On defense the Railroaders will look to press then keep opponents out of the paint with physical play inside.
In looking at last year’s results, Dunston sees a team that lost several close games. He wants to change those losses into wins with better conditioning and more physicality.
“This season we just really want to improve on what they did last year,” he said. “My goal this year is to win a couple of those close games.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.