Work toward his chosen career path is a big part of the reason that Barry Dunning, Jr. chose to return to his home state.

Basketball? Well, yeah, that, too.

Dunning, a two-time Gatorade Alabama Player of the Year, signed with the UAB men’s basketball program last week after spending his first college season at the University of Arkansas. But his choice of a new college home wasn’t just about Andy Kennedy’s basketball program.

“UAB is known for their medical program,” Dunning said.  

Dunning plans on majoring in biology and exercise science with aspirations of moving on to medical school. As of now, he’s considering working toward becoming an orthopedic doctor or perhaps a neurosurgeon.

“It started around Covid time,” Dunning said of his interest in a possible medical career. “My mother told me I needed to find a career path because the ball is going to stop bouncing one day. I always was good in science and always had a thing for understanding science. I looked at some things. I felt that orthopedic doctor was ideal because every college team has an orthopedic doctor or their own doctor. Professional teams have orthopedic doctors. Maybe I can become an orthopedic doctor and travel with the team and stay with the game of basketball.”

While still in high school, at McGill-Toolen High in Mobile, Dunning began a non-profit organization called OTC Mental Health Awareness Inc. Dunning said the idea was born in conversations with his mother, Helen, and it took a little over a year to get it started.

“It was to advocate, educate and inform youth, not just student athletes, to help inform them about mental health,” Dunning said. “I think nowadays, especially in today’s world, mental health is a big thing for the youth. A lot of kids don’t have the access or the village or the information to deal with those things. Hopefully, I’ll be able to grow this organization to help youngsters and athletes with their mental health.”

He continued his non-profit work in Arkansas and plans on doing the same in Birmingham.

On the basketball court, the 6-foot-6 guard is an integral part of UAB’s signing class. He played in 16 games at Arkansas this past season for a team that lost in the NCAA Tournament.

“It helped me grow a lot, being around older guys and, also, being around that coaching staff,” said Dunning, whose only other official visit after entering the transfer portal came to Appalachian State. “It’s a great program, great city, great school. I believe it’s going to help me once I get to UAB. Just knowing about how things go on the court, how to go about things, always having a great work ethic. Just having the ambition to keep learning to get better each and every day.”

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