Victoria Dunlap is special — in part — because she’s no specialist.
Kentucky’s 6-foot-1 forward entered her senior season among the school’s all-time top 10 in points, rebound, steals and blocked shots. She consistently added to all of those numbers once again as she led the team in every one of those categories.
Tuesday she was named the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, which rounded out her all-conference collection that already included Player of the Year (2010) and a unanimous All-Freshman team selection. She also earned her third first team All-SEC recognition.
The Nashville native gets to show off her all-around play for the home folks one more time at this week’s SEC Women’s Tournament, which kicks off Thursday at Bridgestone Arena. The Wildcats, who tied a school record with 11 conference wins during the regular season, are the No. 2 overall seed and open play 2:30 p.m. Friday against the Alabama-LSU winner.
“I guess I just want to be the best in everything I do,” Dunlap said. “I just go into every game trying to play as hard as I can, and I figure I’ll get points rebounds and steals or whatever my team needs.
“I don’t approach any game like, ‘This is one where I’m going to get a lot of rebounds.’ If I see I have an advantage over another player, I will try to go for it as much as possible.”
It’s not just that way with basketball either.
She was a two-sport star at Brentwood Academy, where she finished as the school’s all-time leader in points and rebounds and as MVP of the 2006 state tournament helped that school win its first girls basketball championship. In track and field she was the USA Youth Outdoor champion in the pentathlon (a combination of five events) and the TSSAA state champion in the heptathlon (seven events).
Dunlap ended this regular season as the SEC’s top scorer (16.6 points per game) and among the top 10 in steals (first), field goal percentage (third), rebounding (fourth), blocked shots (fourth) and free throw percentage (sixth).
During her time at Kentucky, she established a singular standard of excellence when, as a junior, she was named the program’s first SEC Player of the Year and just the second Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American.
That coincided with the team’s rise to 28 overall victories — also a school record — and an appearance in the elite eight of the NCAA tournament.
“It is what I wanted to be a part of when I came to Kentucky — I wanted to be a part of building something,” she said. “… After last year, a lot of people would say, ‘You guys are so good. We like coming to your games and watching you play even more than we do the men.’”
Maybe that’s because, with Dunlap, it’s never the same thing over and over.
• Vanderbilt honorees: Redshirt-freshman Stephanie Holzer was named the SEC’s Sixth Woman of the Year, and senior Jence Rhoads was the only Commodore among the eight-member All-SEC first team.
Rhoads, who led VU in points, assists and steals, became just the eighth player in program history to be named all-conference first team more than once. She was similarly honored last season.
Holzer led all SEC freshmen in rebounding and blocked shots and was second in scoring. She also was named to the conference’s All-Freshman team. Jasmine Lister also was an All-Freshman selection.
• Tennessee takes top awards: Shekinna Stricklen was named Player of the Year, Meighan Simmons was named Freshman of the Year and Pat Summit was named Coach of the Year as the Lady Vols, the SEC’s 2010-11 regular season champions, dominated the All-SEC individual honors.
The last time UT claimed all three of those awards was 1998 when Chamique Holdsclaw was the top player, Tamika Catchings was the top freshman and Summit was the Coach of the Year.
In addition, Glory Johnson was named to the first team along with Stricklen, who played four different positions and led the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game. The Coach of the Year award was Summit’s eighth.