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Kris Dunn’s harrowing journey takes him to Minnesota

2016 NBA Draft

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23: Kris Dunn walks on stage after being drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Seldon had just finished watching his son, Kris Dunn, finish an introductory press conference as the newest member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It had been 36 hours of tears, joy and reflection for father and son, who had been through a harrowing journey to get to this point, when Kris was selected fifth overall in the NBA draft.

Millions of dollars await with Dunn’s first contract. He has become an important piece for a young team that is considered to be on the rise in the league and he was welcomed by an excited coach and general manager who never thought they would have the chance to draft him.

The tears in his eyes showed the pride and love Seldon had for his son. And after all they had been through, he drew a big chuckle when remembering the day Dunn gave him some heartbreaking news - that he was quitting football to focus on hoops.

“If you would’ve watched him play football, it was unbelievable,” said Seldon, a football fanatic who never paid much attention to basketball before Dunn started playing. “Everybody says he made the right decision. That’s what he wants to do. I’m going to back him on what he wants to do. That’s what parents do. You back your children up.”

Dunn laughed even harder as he recalled the day he finally had to tell his father - the man who rescued 10-year-old Kris and his 15-year-old brother John when they were living on their own after their mother was jailed - that basketball is what drove him, not football.

“You don’t even understand the arguments we had,” Dunn said. “He loves football. That’s his thing. He loves contact. And the fact that I was good at football made it even harder.

“It was just my time was up on the football field. I loved basketball more than football. He didn’t talk to me for a whole two weeks. I kid you not. Everything worked out for the best.”

And even after Dunn was the two-time Big East player of the year, an All-American at Providence and a top-five pick several teams were trying feverishly to trade for on draft night, Seldon is convinced the outcome would have been the same had Dunn stayed with football.

“I think he would’ve went pro as a defensive back,” Seldon said. “I would like to see his speed and how fast he really is. That’s what I’d like to see. It’s time to put that work in. It’s going to be fun to watch him play.”

Trivial conflicts like these are easy to laugh about now, especially considering that Dunn had no idea who his father was for the first nine years of his life.

Dunn’s mother left Seldon when Dunn was just an infant, taking the two boys to Alexandria, Virginia. But later, Dunn’s mother served 2 1/2 months in jail, leaving John and Kris to fend for themselves.

“We were just trying to survive every day, so we weren’t really planning for the future,” John Dunn said.

Kris Dunn would play older kids for money on the courts of Alexandria, knowing he was living life on the edge each time the ball checked in.

“The fact that I didn’t have money on me, playing against kids trying to bet $20-$30,” Kris Dunn said. “I’ve lost some games. Sometimes I ran away. Sometimes I got caught. And I had to fight.”

Seldon got word that the kids were on their own and drove down from Connecticut to get them one night. Kris had no idea who the big, burly man was that burst through the door of their apartment one and he swung at him. Then his brother told him the big man was his father.

“I’m the type of person that I don’t just trust anybody,” Kris said. “You have to build that relationship and that trust and my dad, he was very great at that. He didn’t try to put too much pressure on me.”

Seldon’s focus on football early helped Kris develop the toughness that made him one of the best defensive players in the country. It’s also what so enamored Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden as they looked at the draft.

Now basketball has taken the family out of those dark days. The struggles are behind them, but will never be forgotten.

“I’m just so happy for him,” Seldon said. “The kid, he did it all. How much can you ask for? You go back and get your degree and then you still come back out and be ready to play basketball at the next level. It’s really hard, but he did it and we’re going to back him and be supportive of him.”