Arkansas women's basketball preview:

35 pounds lighter, Dungee making a difference for Arkansas

By: Paul Boyd
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2018
NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Chelsea Dungee during practice Monday Oct. 1, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Chelsea Dungee during practice Monday Oct. 1, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Chelsea Dungee may have been forced to sit out last year after transferring to Arkansas from Oklahoma, but she’s put the time on and off the floor to good use.

The 5-foot-11 sophomore from Sapulpa, Okla., changed her diet and lost 35 pounds, while also focusing on becoming a better 3-point shooter.

Arkansas women’s basketball coach Mike Neighbors said Dungee will definitely help improve one facet of the Razorbacks’ game.

“Getting points in the paint is something we need to be better at,” Neighbors said. “I think you’ll see points in the paint increased, and Chelsea Dungee brings you that.

“She’s not 6-5, but she’s 5-10 and she’s tough. You’re not gonna recognize Chelsea. She’s dedicated herself to her diet, workout and sleep recovery. She looks like a different kid. She can go get us points in the paint. She’s a tough matchup. She can play any of our perimeter positions and she can score around the basket.”

Teammate Bailey Zimmerman agreed Dungee will make a big difference for the Razorbacks this season.

“I think she’s definitely a game-changer,” Zimmerman said. “She can create her own shot in any situation. She’s a great shooter, and if she wants to drive by she can do that, too. She can pretty much do it all.”

Working against Dungee in practice over the last year has helped her too, Zimmerman said.

“No question, when I guard her that helps me be a better defender,” Zimmerman said.

Dealing with not playing in games for an entire year wasn’t easy, but she’s seeing the rewards of her hard work both on and off the court, Dungee said.

“It’s kinda hard to stay positive, but that’s the route I chose to take,” Dungee said. “My 3-point shot was good, but it wasn’t consistent and now it is. I’ve taken this redshirt year, and I’m thankful for it. It has made me a better player.

“It was difficult. You have to remind yourself all the time that it doesn’t last forever. I’m pretty sure all transfers go through the same process.”

But Dungee also had someone to share those experiences with since teammate A’Tyanna Gaulden transferred from Florida State and came to Arkansas around the same time. But she also said Neighbors has made sure they never felt left out.

“We came a week apart,” Dungee said. “She’s been a great friend, somebody to lean on, and I’m glad we got to do that together.”

Dungee enjoyed a solid freshman season at Oklahoma during the 2016-17 season. She started 18 of 33 games and averaged 7.4 points, good enough to earn All-Big 12 freshman team honors. She scored in double figures 11 times and, ironically, the last time came against Neighbors’ Washington team in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

A few weeks later Neighbors would be announced as the new coach at Arkansas. She decided later to join him at Arkansas, despite the strong season at Oklahoma.

“It just wasn’t the right environment for me,” Dungee said. “Nothing specific, it didn’t work for me."

Her other huge transition has been losing 35 pounds with more dedication to working out and diet.

The big change for her has been a decision to become a vegetarian, which contributed to her weight loss and better physical condition.

“I wanted to be able to guard anybody on the floor,” Dungee said. “I want to be able to help my teammates out and me weighing 35 pounds heavier, I can’t do that. It’s allowed me to help my team out and be a better basketball player.

“I wake up feeling better, too, have a better mindset and feel better throughout the day.”

Dungee has benefited personally from the lifestyle change, but the Razorbacks should see plenty of benefits from it this season, too.

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