HUNTINGTON – As a high school gamer, Aaliyah Dunham entertained the West Virginia masses with South Charleston for four years.
Now, after four years with Xavier, Dunham is returning to the mountain state this week after her commitment to Marshall’s program and head coach Tony Kemper.
“Things went very well with coach Kemper,” said Dunham. “I’ve known him for a while so I think we’ve always had a good relationship. I’m really excited to come back home and play in front of my family and friends. It’s exciting for me.”
The former South Charleston standout was affectionately nicknamed “Granny” by Xavier for holding leadership on and off the field, which will be crucial if the herd loses two senior leaders in Kristen Mayo and Taylor Pearson.
“I take care of everyone as an older person and in a leadership role,” said Dunham. “I’ve always reached out to freshmen and the younger class to make sure they are all good. That made me who I am. I want to make sure everyone is fine and when they need something, reach me.”
On the pitch, Dunham brings a wealth of experience as Division I point guard to the Hearth backcourt, which should take some pressure off guard Savannah Wheeler, who was the team’s top scorer in her first two seasons with Marshall.
With Dunham, Wheeler will be able to play both guard positions, making them even more dangerous for the herd attack – something the team desperately needed this year.
“I think it will go well with the role I’ve played over the past four years to get in and be in the lead,” said Dunham. “I think this is something you need and it will be good for me.”
In addition to the basketball aspects, there were several factors that were in agreement for Dunham when she returned to Huntington for her senior year in college basketball.
First of all, it brings Dunham closer to her family, which was an aspect that was missing this year due to COVID-19. In recent years, her family has been able to travel to play, but safety concerns limited her ability to participate in the 2020-21 season.
“I’m coming home so we’ll have a lot of hometown support,” said Dunham. “When I told my parents, they were excited. They’ve played every home game at Xavier, so they’re more excited to be very close. That gives my grandparents the opportunity to come too. They’re a little older and corona and things have theirs Travel slowed down somehow. They live in Huntington’s, so they can come a lot more now. “
Second, Dunham’s move is all business too.
“It was one of the biggest decisions I made, along with basketball,” said Dunham. “I want to do my MBA and with Marshall’s program the timeline works really well for me to complete it in my year.”
Dunham said it was a feeling of pride to be able to return to her home state and end her basketball career where it all began.
“As a kid from my hometown, I remember playing for South Charleston and all the local kids look up to you,” said Dunham. “It’s just something you always remember. I’m looking forward to it.”
Since Dunham has not yet officially signed with the herd, Kemper was unable to comment on their entry into the program due to the NCAA rules for commenting on potential student athletes.