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Thursday, May 30, 2024

A New Chapter

ECS point guard Josiah Dunham commits his talent to USI

Editor’s Note: This is an extended version of the article that appears in the May/June issue of Evansville Living.

After taking Evansville Christian School to its first IHSAA Class A semistate berth in school history – as anticipated in Evansville Living’s January/February cover story – Josiah Dunham hopes to help revitalize University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball’s fortunes.

“I believe in (USI) coach (Stan) Gouard and the whole coaching staff to really build something in the years to come,” says the ECS senior, who on March 26 committed to USI.

“I felt they had a strong belief in my abilities and I can be a vital part of helping the team in any way I can. I also love the idea of being close to my family, and having a strong support system as I enter this new chapter in my life.”

Dunham, a 6-foot-1 point guard, averaged 24.2 points, 5.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.5 steals while sparking ECS to a 24-3 record. He ended his high school career as the IHSAA’s 18th all-time scorer with 2,373 points.

“He’s ultra competitive,” ECS coach David Kruse says. “He wants the team to be successful. He has a great work ethic, every day, every drill.”

As a freshman, Dunham relied on his athleticism, but grew into a well-rounded player, Kruse says.

“He’ll be a great fit for USI,” Kruse says. “Coach Gouard does a great job. His style of play matches Josiah’s. The height and speed of Division I is a lot different. He’ll have to get his shot off a lot quicker and get more creative.”

Gouard says the biggest positive is Dunham is a hometown kid playing for a hometown program, which will make him work even harder to succeed.

His body is at the college level already, Gouard says. The biggest thing is his footspeed and lateral quickness. I don’t question his toughness. Footspeed is a question out of the gate.

He adds that Dunham is a proven winner.

He will be a great culture kid for our program, Gouard says. His work ethic will give him a chance to be an impact player in the years to come.

Although ECS will return only one starter this coming season, 6-4 Kaden Naab, Kruse is confident his team will regroup and succeed.

The good thing is there are not a lot of expectations, Kruse says. They will adapt and adjust to different roles.

After posting a 16-17 record in its inaugural season in NCAA Division I, USI slumped to 8-24 in its second year. Gouard says the second year of the transition period often can be the most difficult, with players eyeing the transfer portal after experiencing the move up to Division I.

The current exodus is even more pronounced. Gouard is losing six players through the transfer portal, including first-team all-Ohio Valley Conference selection and leading scorer Jeremiah Hernandez, second-leading scorer and leading rebounder AJ Smith, and 6-8 Bosse High School graduate Kiyron Powell.

“It’s a slow, steady, frustrating world we live in,” says Gouard, who has a four-year record of 54-54. “When you’re a low major, it’s hard to compete.”

Gouard says the top 10 scorers in the OVC all entered the transfer portal.

“Kids come in with one foot in and one foot out,” he says. “You have to re-establish your culture every year. It’s hard to do.”

Gouard says the biggest positive is Dunham will be playing for a hometown program, which will make him work even harder to succeed. “He will be a great culture kid for our program,” Gouard says. “His work ethic will give him a chance to be an impact player in the years to come.”

Dunham hopes to lend a helping hand during his freshman season at USI.

“My AAU experience playing for Indiana Elite 3SSB allowed me to play against the best players in the country and prepared me for the speed and size at the next level,” he says. “I am confident I will adapt to the next level and believe my game and work ethic will be a nice fit at USI.”

Dunham has already lifted Evansville Christian to previously unforeseen heights.

“It was a great year for our team and program as a whole, he says.” “I would say the relationships built along the journey were the most important part. I did score a lot of points, but it was my teammates and coaches who really helped me become I player I am today. They helped me elevate my talents and put me in positions to thrive.”

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