Westover leading scorer and senior DyTiesha Dunson (00) is not only a two-time Herald Super 6er and one of the primary reasons the No. 2 state-ranked Lady Pats are 20-0, but just last week she received one of the highest honor a high school basketball player can receiver when she was nominated as a McDonald’s All-American. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — DyTiesha.
She’s got a name like Madonna or Cher or Elvis, the kind that requires no last name at all, because anyone who knows anything about girls high school basketball in Southwest Georgia, knows about DyTiesha.
“She is the real deal,’’ Thomasville coach Thomas McAboy said after his team lost to Westover earlier this season when DyTiesha Dunson had what still stands as her lowest-scoring night of the year. “She scored only seven points, but she’s the reason they got the other 40. I love her attitude. I love her drive. I love the way she plays.
“She’s out there doing everything to help her team win. She does a great job of being a leader on the court. She is what a point guard should be.’’
That’s DyTiesha, being everything she should be.
“I’ve had a lot of nice players come through here,’’ Lewis Smith, who has been coaching at Westover since 1994, said Thursday. “Girls who could shoot, girls who could dribble.’’
Then he paused and smiled.
“But none of them quite like DyTiesha,’’ he said. “None like her.’’
Smith has seen it all from Dunson — from as far back as when she was in seventh grade.
“I saw her play in seventh-grade and she was doing things high school girls weren’t doing,’’ Smith said. “I was trying to teach my high school girls (a ball-handling technique) and we had a drill we were running to teach them. Then I go see DyTiesha play, and she’s doing it on the court as a seventh-grader. You could see right then that DyTiesha was special.’’
She started for Westover as a freshman and took over at point guard for Brittany Gilbert, a star who moved to the No. 2 spot.
“Britanny was a (Albany Herald) Super 6er,’’ Smith said. “And I took the ball from her and gave it to DyTiesha. That’s how good she was as a freshman.’’
On the day she signed a scholarship with Florida Gulf Coast University, Smith told the large group at the signing: “She is the best dribbler I’ve ever seen, boys or girls.’’
He meant it.
“A lot of people tell me that,’’ said Dunson, a two-time Super 6er and McDonald’s All-American nomniee who started playing with the boys teams at the Jefferson Street Boys & Girls club when she was 8. She wasn’t exactly a natural on the court back then.
“The reason I started playing was so I could leave and get out of the boys club,” she said. “The teams would get to travel to other boys clubs. Honest, that’s why I started playing. I just wanted to see those other clubs.’’
By the time she was in fifth grade she was a starter on the boys team at the boys club, and when she visited her father in the summer after seventh grade, she somehow got hooked up with the Camden County varsity boys basketball team. She played with that team for a month and even started some games.
But it was more work than wonder for Dunson, who is a workaholic at the game — and in the classroom, where she has a 4.23 GPA. She would get bored around the house, and start dribbling two basketballs at the same time. It soon became a regular part of her day, and she credits that with her emergence as a guard in high school.
After thinking about going to Camden County and living with her father, she changed her mind and became a Lady Patriot.
“I just wanted to stay in Albany,’’ she said.
The rest is legendary stuff at Westover, where she has led the team in every offensive category for the last three years, and she has dribbled Westover — ranked No. 1 by The Herald and No. 2 in the state poll — to a 20-0 record. She wants two things now: an unbeaten season and a state title.
“That would be special to do that,’’ she said.
Dunson has done just about everything else. She’s scored more than 1,500 points in her career and Westover is 68-9 over the last three seasons — and 92-14 in Dunson’s career there.
But there is so much more than numbers when it comes to the girl named DyTiesha.
“She makes plays you can’t believe,’’ said fellow Herald Super 6er Ieshia Young, who has been playing with Dunson since middle school. “One time in a game she drove the ball down court and went right through two defenders and pulled an up-and-under play. That’s a play you see in college. Most girls aren’t even strong enough to try to do that play. But she went right through the two defenders and did it. I was just standing in the middle of the court, frozen — just standing there going, ‘Whoah! Did she really do that?’ ”
Smith smiled when he heard Young’s account of that big play.
“She makes plays like that for us all the time,’’ Smith said. “And I think when she gets to the next level she will make the same kind of (highlight film) plays. I think with a shot clock and the rip-and-run game in college, she is really going to be able to make big plays.’’
Dunson also had helped Smith with this year’s young team, which had only two seniors.
“We all look up to her and respect her,’’ said sophomore Mykesa Smith, who is rapidly emerging on the team. “She helped me a lot with my shot and has helped the other players, too. She means so much to this team. She’s like having another coach.’’
And in the heat of the game, all the Westover players look for DyTiesha.
“I know when I’m in trouble, I look for her, and try to get her the ball,” Smith said. “We all do.’’
Tift County’s Lady Blue Devils had to foul at the end of last Saturday’s game to try to catch up, and coach Julie Conner told her kids not to foul Dunson. It didn’t work.
“She’s an incredible player,’’ Conner said afterward. “We told them not to foul her, but she’s such a great player she got to the ball and got fouled. She’s just a great player.’’
Dunson hit 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to finish with a career-high 35 points against Tift County. Her previous high was 31 against Perry as a sophomore.
“We want her to get 40 points,’’ Young said. “But she’s not a selfish player. If you didn’t read the newspaper about her scoring 25, 30 points, you would never know it. She’s really humble about it. She is always looking to pass, but we all know, she’s our go-to-man. And she knows when it’s her time.”
It has been her time for the past four years, and DyTiesha will leave an indelible mark on Westover basketball. After she put up 35 against Tift County, Westover assistant coach Vanite Moore quipped, “It’s about time for us to retire her jersey.”
“She’s awesome,’’ Lee County coach Fran McPherson said of Dunson, who beat the Lady Trojans twice this season. “She’s such a good player, and she wants the ball. We needed to be more aware of where she was at all times.’’
Smith knows exactly where Dunson is.
“She makes everybody better,’’ Smith said. “She makes the players look better and she makes the coach look better. She makes me look good all the time.
“You would love to have one like her coming every year. It’s going to be hard when she leaves. It’s just been great. I love it. I’m proud of DyTiesha. But it’s going to be hard when she goes.’’