PHOENIX — Every basketball team has its outside shooters.
PHOENIX — Every basketball team has its outside shooters.
In the case of Phoenix High and senior guard Tyler Dungannon, it's way, way, way outside. Out the door, down the block, off the beaten path, into the woods.
Dungannon is accomplished both as a scoring machine for the defending state champion and fourth-ranked Pirates and as a hunter. His passion for each is deep, and if asked to choose one activity over the other, he politely declines.
Too difficult to call.
"You don't get many opportunities at a big buck," says the 6-foot-3 Dungannon, "but you do get quite a few opportunities to shoot each night in games. It's definitely half-and-half of my life, it really is. A lot of players will say basketball is their life, but I can't say that because being out in the outdoors, nothing beats that."
That isn't to say basketball isn't important to Dungannon, whose father, Duane, is state coordinator for the Oregon Hunters Association and editor and publisher of Oregon Hunter.
One doesn't become a school's second all-time leading scorer and get the chance to play collegiately with a lackadaisical approach.
Dungannon, who often has been in the shadow of senior teammate Alex Young since the two first became teammates in first grade, has managed to carve his own niche.
He averages 17.7 points per game and is shooting 56 percent from the field on 2-pointers and 39 percent on 3s. He's a 75-percent marksman at the line.
Dungannon has devoted enough time and energy to honing his shooting mechanics and other areas of his game — notably
ballhandling and getting stronger — that he's leaning toward playing for NAIA Division II Eastern Oregon. The Mountaineers were in Ashland to take on Southern Oregon Saturday night, and he was expected to accept an offer from the school.
Eastern Oregon is a mecca for hunters, and he'd study journalism and wildlife management, no doubt taking a cue from his father.
"They're constantly in the top 25," says Tyler Dungannon, noting Eastern Oregon. "They're very successful, and they have what I want to study."
Dungannon's shooting eye with a rifle was evident early. He completed the hunter-education course at age 10 and immediately hit the woods. He bagged his first buck at age 13, a monstrous blacktail whose antlers were slightly more than 128 inches in Boone and Crockett scoring. It landed Dungannon in the state record book in the Cascade youth category and on the cover of the state regulations booklet the following year.
Over the recent holiday break, Dungannon had a deer tag he didn't want to go to waste, so he hunted in the morning, napped in the afternoon and was ready to play basketball in the evening.
"It is kind of interesting to make the switch from being an outdoor, country-type guy to the gym and basketball-type guy," he says. "But I wouldn't trade it for anything."
When Phoenix coach Glenn Johannes first encountered Dungannon as a freshman, the youngster wanted to develop into an NCAA Division I player. The coach placed him on an AAU traveling team, opening his eyes to the commitment required and letting him know hunting "would be on the back burner for a long time."
Dungannon — who gave up football largely because it interfered with hunting — would make concessions, but that was going too far.
"He just lights up when he talks about hunting," says Johannes.
Dungannon can also light up in the gym.
As a sophomore, he led the Skyline Conference in scoring with an average of 17.2. His season average was 15.1, punctuated by a 30-point outburst against Marist in the season finale at the state tournament.
He established tournament records for points (59) and field goals (27).
Dungannon's scoring dropped off as a junior, when he battled tendinitis in his right wrist, but he played a big role as the Pirates claimed their first state championship in 60 years.
Johannes had a major impact on Dungannon's shooting technique when the two worked together in 2008-09 on the junior varsity team.
"I had a decent shot coming into high school," says Dungannon, "but coach Johannes definitely perfected it. He sanded and finished it."
Johannes, who would assume the varsity position the following year, eliminated extraneous motion from Dungannon's delivery and sped up his release.
"What a lot of shooter's do is catch it in the shooter's pocket," says Dungannon, "then bring it down to their waste and come back up with it. If you eliminate that motion, it speeds up the shot. When you get the solid pass right in the shooter's pocket, you go right up with it. My percentage is unbelievably higher because there's not as much margin for error."
It helps to receive a pass in the proper place, of course.
"That's where Alex Young comes in," Dungannon says of the point guard, who was Class 4A player of the year last season and has signed to play with UC Irvine. "That ball is in the shooter's pocket a lot."
Young and Dungannon form the Big Two — at least from the perspective of outsiders — and that's an unfair characterization, says the latter, of a Pirates team that is 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the Skyline.
Dalton Richardson is a beast on the boards, says Dungannon, while the other two starters, Luke Brown and Calvin Loper, fill a variety of roles and Travis Campoy, whose motor never stops, provides a spark off the bench.
"If you watch us play, you'll see that we're not a two-man team," says Dungannon. "Everybody contributes to our success."
Likewise, it's not uncommon for Dungannon to be viewed as playing a supporting role to Young.
"It's typical to view him in that light," says Johannes, "but I don't know if it's fair. I don't think Alex would have the success he's had without having Tyler."
Both players take pressure off and create openings for each other as teams try to defense them.
"What we have between the both of them, that's a coach's dream," says Johannes. "I'm just fortunate enough to be a part of it."
Young, who has been starting since his freshman year, is the all-time leader in every statistical category — points, rebounds, assists, steals, field goals, free throws and 3-pointers for the Pirates.
He has 1,621 career points, and Dungannon has 1,193.
Dungannon would be the main man on most other teams, but he's interested in team success more than accumulating stats.
"As far as stats or whatever, I would gladly trade not being the man, so to speak, to have an opportunity to play with A.C. (Young)," he says. "He truly does make everyone around him better. I wouldn't trade that for anything."
Phoenix will, of course, need both players at the tops of their games if they intend to repeat as state champion.
"There are some great teams out there that weren't even in the tournament last year," says Dungannon, "and also the teams we did see are proving to be better than last year. I like our chances, I really do. We have something nobody else has, experience. We've been there, done it, we know what it takes."
The goal is to get back to the tournament and let it play out.
After all, all a shooter really wants is a shot.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com