Dawson hits 1,000 points in junior season for GVSU

GVL / Luke Holmes - 
Kayla Dawson (23) attempts to dribble past the defender. Grand Valley had a victory over Lake Superior State Thursday, Feb. 12, 2016.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Kayla Dawson (23) attempts to dribble past the defender. Grand Valley had a victory over Lake Superior State Thursday, Feb. 12, 2016.

Beau Troutman

Kayla Dawson stood at the free throw line preparing to shoot two ordinary free throws late in a blowout win to Lake Superior State on Feb. 11, but it wasn’t the free throws that were on her mind.

She was wondering why she, the team’s leading scorer, was the only starter left in a game that was decided at halftime. Nevertheless, she knocked down the first free throw, and then the second—although it nearly rimmed out. No big deal, she thought.

Well, not quite.

With those two makes at the line, Dawson made Grand Valley State school history and is now one of 22 players ever to score 1,000 points in their GVSU careers.

“Every play was for me, I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ Then I assumed that I had to be close, I didn’t know the exact points or any of that,” Dawson said. “So then I went to the bench and (GVSU coach Mike Williams) gave me a hug and said ‘That’s your 1,000 points!’ It was a surreal feeling.”

Dawson is having a breakout season in her third year as a Laker. She leads the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game, which is good for third-best in the GLIAC, and her 42.3 percent clip from behind the arc is fourth-best in the conference.

Dawson, a junior, has made significant strides since her freshman season, showing vast improvement from year to year. In her first year in Laker blue, she was the second-leading scorer at 9.8 points per game. And that gaudy 3-point percentage? Dawson was 0-of-8 from long range on the season.

GVSU associate head coach Phil Sayers cites a game against LSSU during Dawson’s freshman season as a testament to her work ethic to make the necessary improvements to her game.

It was only fitting that Dawson achieve the milestone against the very team that spurred her to improve just a few years ago.

“Freshman year, I’m not lying, Lake State did not leave the paint when guarding her,” Sayers said. “They said ‘We’re not leaving the paint. We’re going to stay in the paint, and you can do what you want.’ It rattled her. It kind of got her going to become a better shooter.”

In her sophomore season, Dawson responded. Her points per game jumped to 12.4 and her 3-point percentage jumped to 45.5 percent on 20-of-44 shooting. She led the team in steals with 52.

Sayers, who handles the offensive side of the ball, said the strides the standout forward has made are a long time coming.

“Some kids are just natural scorers, Dawson’s a natural hard-worker,” Sayers said. “I think back to her freshman year, two of the first four games she didn’t play at all, like, no minutes. Now here she is as a junior. That doesn’t happen just because.”

The journey to 1,000 points was one of steady improvement, and Dawson isn’t finished yet. Three regular season games, the GLIAC tournament and potentially the NCAA tournament all remain for GVSU. That’s a lot of basketball, and with her entire senior season still to play, Dawson’s point total is only going to grow.

With the exception of shooting guard Brionna Barnett, Dawson has played with the current starting five since her freshman season. In her eyes, this is why she was able to join the 1,000 club so early.

“All of us were always so competitive and in the gym shooting Sundays after game days,” Dawson said. “We were so competitive in practices and just pushing each other to be better. I think that helped a lot to get to the 1,000 points.”

So where could she end up when it’s all said and done? Well, it’s safe to say Dawson won’t take over the No. 1 spot in career points, held by former Laker Mary Randall at 2,156 career points. That can be ruled out.

As far as the 1,000-point club is concerned, though, it’s reasonable to say Dawson could find herself in the top 10 at the conclusion of her Laker career. Currently, the No. 10 spot is held by Karrie Williams at 1,283 points.

If Dawson were to average the same amount of points as she is this season over the course of a 28-game regular season and excluding postseason, that would give her 476 more points on her resume—well over the amount needed to crack the top 10.

Of course, those are only hypotheticals—there’s no telling what the future holds. With three games left in the current season, all Dawson is focused on right now is to help angle the Lakers in position to make a run at the GLIAC title, and be the best teammate she can be.

When it comes to Dawson’s legacy, her priorities are more team-based.

“In my mind, I’d rather win basketball games and win a championship, and have those experiences with my team,” she said. “It’s not really a goal of mine, but on a personal level, it’d be really cool to be on that list.”