Maurice Dunlap was just getting adjusted to college basketball when his season and career changed in a snap.
That snap occurred during practice in mid-December when the Mississippi State freshman guard fractured his right wrist.
Initially, Dunlap was only expected to miss a maximum of two weeks. But once rehab began, he sustained a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
“It was really awkward because I thought I was going to have a good season this year,” Dunlap said. “But as it turned out, I didn’t. I guess things happen for a reason.”
Although the injuries were devastating for the former three-star prospect trying to prove himself on a new team, the timing proved to be in his favor. Dunlap had appeared in only seven games for the Bulldogs prior to the injuries and was still eligible to redshirt if he did not play any further.
“It was good that I got that redshirt because it helped me to see a lot of things from the bench that I can work on and help my team,” Dunlap said. “While I was redshirting, I still was able to work on my skills and my game.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound shooting guard logged 72 total minutes for MSU and scored 20 points. Dunlap was 6-of-22 from the field, 3-of-14 behind the arc and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
It was quite the transition for the former Amanda Elzy standout, who led the Panthers to Class 4A state titles in 2012 and 2013. Dunlap averaged 14.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals as a senior and was a two-time Dandy Dozen selection.
“It was a big atmosphere difference coming from high school to college,” Dunlap said. “The players here are bigger, stronger, quicker and faster. They’re all older than me. It’s really grown men I’m playing against.”
Another adjustment Dunlap has had to make recently is to a new coaching staff. He was the first prospect to commit to former State coach Rick Ray in 2012. When Ray was fired in March, Dunlap was unsure what his next step would be.
“When I first heard about it I wondered what I was going to do,” Dunlap said. “I talked with my parents and they told me to see what happens.”
Three days later, Dunlap learned that the Bulldogs had hired Ben Howland. Howland’s name alone was enough to let Dunlap know that he would be in good hands going forward.
“My first thoughts were that he was a good coach from his resume and all the players he’s put in the league (NBA),” Dunlap said. “He coached one of my favorite players, Russell Westbook. He’s won conference championships and Final Fours. Judging from his resume, he can help me become a better player.”
Having grown up in Greenwood, Dunlap is fully invested in helping put Mississippi State hoops back on the map following a three-year hiatus from the postseason. He likes the direction things are now headed.
“I take a lot of pride in this program,” Dunlap said. “We’ve come a long way. We’ve matured a lot and are in a good predicament right now. It’s a real good feeling knowing that I’m a Mississippi kid and I’m here playing for my home state team.”