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Dunn expected to apply for medical redshirt

YOUNGSTOWN — Mary Dunn looks over the floor. She wishes she was there, helping her teammates succeed, playing a game which has been part of her life for so many years.

Basketball in hand, putting it through a hoop. Rebounding and throwing an outlet pass to a teammate. The thoughts pepper her mind as she’s confined to the Youngstown State University bench. Her voice is powerful, strong and reinforcing.

Those 10 players on the floor hear everything the 6-foot-3 YSU senior women’s basketball player has to say.

Dunn played four games this season — averaging 17 points — before her right meniscus gave way in the waning moments of the Eastern Michigan game in mid-November when she had 30 points in a come-from behind win. Surgery followed and plenty of time to heal.

“I’m getting better every day, but I still have a long way to go,” Dunn said. “I’m probably not going to be back this season and going to apply for a medical redshirt to come back next year.”

Her status for 2020-21 will be determined by the NCAA after YSU submits the paperwork following this season. She meets the criteria as far as not exceeding the allotted amount of games, but the NCAA makes the final determination on Dunn’s return for next season.

YSU coach John Barnes said Dunn is finished for the season. Emma VanZanten, a 6-4 redshirt junior post, is questionable. Amara Chikwe, a 6-1 redshirt sophomore forward, has been out all season due to a concussion. She is not returning nor is 5-10 freshman Lexi Wagner, who tore her ACL in a preseason practice, Barnes added.

The team is back to 10 active players as 5-9 junior McKenah Peters, who switched to a post position this season, returned for the recent road series at UIC and IUPUI. Peters averages 10 points and six rebounds per game.

“I think she’ll be that much better against Wright State,” said Barnes, whose team hosts the Raiders tonight at 7.

Peters suffered a foot injury against Wright State about a month ago.

It’s been one thing after another for the Penguins, who have suffered more than their share of injuries.

“We hired a specific company for knee prevention, a lot of big-time schools use,” Barnes said. “If you land wrong or get hit in the knee on the side, or get landed on for a concussion, or land on someone’s foot for a sprained ankle, it’s just that luck has not been on our side this year. You have to do the best you can.”

Four true freshman and two redshirt freshmen have logged many minutes this season. Plenty of mistakes have been made. It’s what you deal with when you play young players.

This is a YSU team which gave league-leader IUPUI a scare on Saturday and beat them at home in late December.

“We can beat anybody,” Barnes said. “It’s just we don’t have a lot of room for error. If we make a lot of mental mistakes, we’re not going to win. If we turn the ball over, we’re not going to win.”

VanZanten said her process back has been slow and she was hoping to be cleared to play after an X-ray on her right foot on Tuesday. She broke her fourth metatarsal during a mid-November game at Akron.

“Unfortunately, I have two more weeks left,” VanZanten said. “The doctor said I could be for sure back by the end of the season for the tournament.”

She and Dunn see 6-2 freshman Jen Wendler carry the brunt of the minutes they would’ve played this season. The improvement in the freshman forward is there. Both upperclassmen have been working with Wendler.

“From the minute she stepped on the court to now, it’s crazy,” VanZanten said. “I’m super, super proud of her. Gained a lot of confidence, a lot of skill. She has fun out there, which is what basketball is all about.”

Dunn is an upbeat person by nature. She conveys that in practices and games, giving that reassuring force these young YSU players need to hear — especially Wendler.

Dunn sees them as the same. Both had to play unexpected minutes as freshmen due to injuries. Lordstown native Sarah Cash was injured when Dunn was a freshman. Dunn eventually became Horizon League Freshman of the Year.

“I tell her all the time, ‘It’s hard to see. I’ve been there and I understand it,’ “ Dunn said. “That really does help her, just knowing it’s going to be OK and someone else has been in this position. I think she’s done a really great job stepping up.

“A lot of people don’t know the pressure that comes on you, going from you’re not sure you’re going to get into the game to starting and playing 35 minutes. I think she’s done a good job. She’s getting better every game. I think she’s going to keep getting better.”

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