Despite playing through constant pain, Canyon High student Abby Dunkin managed to land on the All-District basketball team as a sophomore.
As a junior, she was averaging more than 12 points per game for the Cougarettes before it finally hurt too much to play.
By the end of her junior year at CHS, Dunkin was confined to a wheelchair.
She didn’t let that fact diminish her zest for life or basketball for that matter. On January 9, in front of dozens of friends, teammates, coaches and family members, Dunkin signed a national letter of intent to play wheelchair basketball at the University of Texas-Arlington.
“The transition to what I was physically to what I am now has been hard, but this opportunity gives me a huge boost,” Dunkin said. “I’ve definitely learned to do your best with what you have and don’t take life for granted.”
Dunkin first began having problems in middle school with what doctors diagnosed as RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome), a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system that is characterized by chronic, severe pain. Her symptoms worsened, and last year Dunkin was diagnosed with Dysautonomia, a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system.
“One of the ways we’ve gotten through this is Abby’s incredible resolve,” said Melissa Dunkin, Abby’s mother. “She’s always stayed positive and continues to push forward no matter what. I’m so proud of her.”
Despite not being able to play her senior year, Dunkin is a captain on this year’s Canyon High varsity basketball team and travels with the squad to every game.
Head coach Marsha Hammond calls her the team’s biggest cheerleader and motivator.
“Abby looks for the good in every situation, and she’s a huge motivator for our basketball team,” Hammond said. “She’s as big a part of the team as anyone we have playing, and we still list her No. 23 in our program every game. She’s a true leader in every sense of the word on our bench – it’s like having another coach. She talks to the kids as they come off the floor, and she’s there to motivate them in practice.”
Dunkin’s teammates agree wholeheartedly they are a better team because of their senior captain.
“I tore my ACL over the summer and it’s looking like I’m finally going to get cleared to play soon,” said fellow senior Kendra Dietert. “Abby’s been a huge inspiration for me personally on my comeback trail. She helps this team the same way. She’s always building us up and she never allows us to get down on ourselves.”
Dunkin already has some wheelchair basketball experience. She’s the only girl on a team sponsored by the San Antonio Spurs, which plays in different tournaments around the state.
“My ultimate goal is to play in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan,” said Dunkin. “My coaches at UT-Arlington told me they think I have a really good shot at making the team and that they will support me in every way possible.”