Dunlap’s collegiate career winding down


UK’s Lydia Watkins, left, and Victoria Dunlap battle for the ball while playing Bellarmine University at Memorial Coliseum on Monday, Nov. 9, 2009. The Wildcats defeated Bellarmine 107-57. Photo by Scott Hannigan

One of the most prolific players to ever wear a UK women’s basketball jersey only has one home game remaining.

UK’s senior forward Victoria Dunlap came into the season with lofty expectations, being named preseason Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and a preseason All-American. And instead of backing down, Dunlap has shined.

Dunlap has already been nominated to the following prestigious lists: Wade Trophy Watch List, Naismith Top 30 Midseason Watch List, John R. Wooden Top 20 Midseason Watch List and Pepsi Celebration of Champions.

For the most part, Dunlap is content with how the season has played out.

“I’m happy we have a pretty good record right now, so I’m satisfied with that, but obviously the losses — I’m not proud of them,” Dunlap said. “You learn from those losses and try to move forward.”

No. 20 UK’s (20-7, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) season has been filled with ups and downs, starting downhill when a key player that made things easier for Dunlap was injured at the beginning of the season.

In the summer of 2010, senior guard Amber Smith injured her knee and was ruled out for the season, forcing Dunlap into an even greater role than before. The role pushed Dunlap to focus more on the team than herself.­­­

“It’s been okay, being the type of person I am and coming off of last year, I guess that I can say that I’ve been more comfortable with the role I have been in,” Dunlap said. “Personally, I need to make sure the teammates know what’s going on.”

Recovery went better than expected for Smith, and she had a chance to come back for postseason play this season but opted to take the medical redshirt, allowing her to play all of next season.

Dunlap’s numbers haven’t suffered from the absence of Smith, though.

In the SEC, Dunlap ranks first in scoring and steals, second in field goal percentage, fourth in rebounding and fifth in blocks.

“As an individual, I think having the same mindset and working hard and putting up a lot of shots and being more comfortable with my shots and my game has been pretty consistent, but more of my effort is being a part of the team,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap’s career has been one that will go down in UK lore. She ranks top six in nearly every statistical category, from career points, scoring average, field goals made, rebounds, double-doubles, blocks and steals.

Dunlap’s legendary career came as no surprise for fans, who have seen the Cats’ expectations rise each season since Dunlap has been at UK.

The average attendance since Dunlap has been at UK has also risen. In the top 10 attendances in Memorial Coliseum history, Dunlap has played in four of the games.

While her time is running out in a blue uniform, Dunlap is appreciating each moment.

“I try not to think about (my career winding down), but I try and cherish every moment that I have, being here being with my coaches and staff … and my teammates,” Dunlap said. “It’s an offset right now, but obviously I have to think about it because it’s coming up pretty soon, so I’m just trying to be positive right now.”