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Riverbank's Shooting Star Takes Game To Junior Olympics
It is tough to imagine perfecting a craft in less than 10 years, but that likely is the case when it comes to Cardozo Middle School student Rolaun Dunham after his impressive Bronze Medal finish during the USA Jr. Olympic Skills Competition in Chula Vista recently.

Dunham took advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity when he took to the courts competing alongside 70-plus contestants in the basketball skills division of the Junior Olympics National Finals.

The Riverbank standout earned the finals berth by finishing first in his local qualifying event and then following that showing up with a first place finish during the regional competition, earning an all expense trip for himself and a companion to the pristine Olympic facilities in the San Diego area.

"They held the local qualifying tournament here in Riverbank," Dunham said. "And then we went to the Regionals in Oakley and I scored thirty-something.

"I took first place and that's how we got to San Diego."

Dunham put on a pair of clinics in the early qualifying rounds, winning both events with first place finishes. The 13-year-old sharpshooter maximized his chances by displaying uncanny shooting skills during the 45-second drills.

The objective of the participants is to score as many points as possible by making baskets from designated shooting areas and the free throw line. Diagrams are set to mark shooting spots in six spots on one half of the basketball court.

Shots are located at the top of the three point line (5-points), the free throw line (3-point), two spots on the left and right side of the key at 10 feet (2-points) and a shot on each left and right block for one point each.

Dunham had his own remedy for success in the finals, good enough to return to Riverbank with one of only three medals awarded in his age and gender group.

"I went to the closest spot on the court," Dunham said. "And I just tried to shoot as many of those as I could. I just was not on that day. Every time I shot I kept following through to the right.

"Other kids had good shots, but I was really off that day."

Dunham's 'off day' was nonetheless good enough to cement his name into the record books of the Junior Olympics, not only elevating his name on the scene, but pulling the city of Riverbank along with him.

"The top three kids in the nation are the ones that advance," Junior Olympic Basketball Skills Captain Bennett Mayfield said. "There are 1.6 million nationwide in all four sports and Rolaun advanced in the basketball end. The accomplishment he made is obviously incredible. There are millions of kids participating in this and he is in the top three.

"Just making it that far is an accomplishment in itself, but here he is in the top three in the nation."

Dunham was accompanied on the trip by his grandmother Erma Jean Solomon, who received the call from the Junior Olympic skills official that Dunham's regional performance was good enough for a trip to Southern California.

"The captain called to congratulate Rolaun on winning the championship and making it to the national finals of the Junior Olympics," Solomon said. "When I came home I told him and we just couldn't believe it."

The pair enjoyed a trip for the ages, enjoying each and every aspect of what turned out to be a miniature version of the World Olympic Games.

"There was an opening ceremony just like the regular Olympics," Solomon said. "They had a parade with Colby Jones leading the way and all the kids following with their state flags, a torch lighting ceremony.

"It was really just a great experience."

Dunham's return trip to Riverbank left him with a little more luggage and not just with the medal. Tournament officials took care of the contestants and made sure they were able to find an appreciation for all the sports in the entire competition.

"They gave us so much stuff," Dunham recounted. "They gave me two tennis rackets, two softballs, two basketballs, two soccer balls, five shirts, two shorts, a pair of shoes and two bags.

"That's about it."

The perks of being a stud are seemingly starting early for Dunham, but his focus is solely locked in on one particular dream. A dream that with hard work and dedication, he very well likely may obtain.

"I really want to be able to go to North Carolina," Dunham said of his five-year vision extending to college ball, "and play basketball on a scholarship. If I can get good grades and practice, practice, practice I know it can happen."