Tatiana Dunlap was known as a fierce defender during her high school days at Cabrillo and St. Joseph.
Dunlap, without fail, would defend the other team's best player and was ferocious on the perimeter, using her length, speed and vision to cut off ball-handlers, deflect passes or block shots.
Though Dunlap had a reputation as an all-time great on defense, she may have been equally as good on offense. In her three seasons at St. Joseph, Dunlap scored over 1,300 points. During her senior season with the Knights, the 5-foot-8 guard averaged 23.7 points, 3.0 assists, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game as the Knights went 19-9.
As a sophomore in 2010-11, Dunlap was on the Knights' state championship winning team. She was named the Times' All-Area MVP in 2013.
Dunlap is the sixth nominee for the Times' Player of the Decade contest. Dunlap joins Valley Christian's Simone Swain, Lompoc's Danielle Morgan, Arroyo Grande's Ashlyn Herlihy, Righetti's Molly Schlemer and Cabrillo's Erin Jenkins. The Times is polling current and former coaches to develop its list of nominees for Player of the Decade.
Dunlap averaged 15.1 points over 87 games with the Knights. As a junior in 2011-12, Dunlap averaged a double-double for the season, with 15.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while also dishing out 3.0 assists and swiping 2.4 steals per game.
Dunlap's defensive prowess was fueled by her fiery nature. Dunlap never backed down from a challenge, attacking ball-handlers and shot-takers with an unmatched passion. On the other end of the floor, Dunlap steadily developed a versatile offensive game. She started out as a slasher that would score primarily inside.
During her All-Area MVP season, when star teammate Kaitlyn Flowers suffered a torn ACL, more of the offensive pressure was applied to Dunlap. She handled it well, bumping her scoring average up to nearly 24 points a game while facing constant double-teams. Dunlap's jump shot really started to take form.
Dunlap, though, credited her teammates for stepping up.
“My teammates adjusted very well and really helped me when I was being double- and triple-teamed.” Dunlap said in 2013, crediting teammate Syenna Ramirez for taking some of the offensive pressure off her.
“My favorite shot is driving to the basket for a layup," Dunlap said then. "I will need to hit more consistently from 10-to-15 feet out — I’m really going to work on that this summer."
Dunlap did develop her offensive game. She initially signed with Cal State San Bernardino and stayed there for two years, red-shirting one season. She averaged 5.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 19.5 minutes per game during Cal State San Bernardino’s 2013-14 campaign her freshman season there. She shot 53.8 percent from the floor (42-for-78) and nearly 80 percent from the foul line (37-for-47).
Dunlap ended up transferring to Cal Lutheran, where she played two seasons. Her best season with the Regals came in 2016-17, when she earned All-Southern California Intercollegiate Conference honors. She averaged 10.5 points, 2.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds a game that year.
The rest of the Player of the Decade nominees will be announced in the coming weeks before a tournament-style voting contest will be held to determine the girls basketball Player of the Decade. Readers will be able to vote online at santamariatimes.com; lompocrecord.com and syvnews.com.
Players from Northern Santa Barbara County and Southern San Luis Obispo County whose final seasons where in between 2009-10 and 2019-20 are eligible.
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