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Monday, April 1, 2013
Rebekah Dahlman has green light to stardom

By Andrew Linnehan

She's a rather unusual patron of the Pizza Pub in the bite-size town of Braham, Minn., north of Minneapolis. Not because she hates pizza. And not because she hates to socialize. She welcomes both.

But last Tuesday at the Pub, Rebekah Dahlman sat focused on neither pies nor people. She needed the pub's TV to watch her future basketball team, the Vanderbilt Commodores, butt heads with the mighty UConn Huskies in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament.

Dahlman, a senior at Braham, hails from a basketball lineage richer and deeper than Donald Trump's pockets. Her maternal grandfather, John Kundla, coached George Mikan and the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers to five championships in six years. Her parents, Nate and Kathy, met while coaching basketball at the same high school. Her four older siblings -- Isaiah, Noah, Jonah, and Hannah -- all have a long list of high school and college basketball accomplishments, including Isaiah's two trips to the Final Four with Michigan State in 2009 and 2010.

The Dahlmans are a modest family, raised on a farm with strong faith and firm values. The reason Rebekah sought out the town pizza parlor to watch the Vanderbilt game on a weeknight was that she couldn't watch at home. Nate and Kathy don't allow Internet or television in the house, an environment that helped instill a laser-sharp focus on books and basketball in each of the six children.

"It's nice to focus on school sometimes," said Dahlman, the No. 16 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2013 class. "I come home, and there's seriously nothing to do. It has developed me into someone who prioritizes academics and athletics."

That might help explain the unique feat of this small-town girl in a tiny athletic conference. In the quarterfinals of the Minnesota state tournament on March 13 against BOLD (Olivia, Minn.), Dahlman poured in 40 points in a 79-42 win and became the first high school girl in the state to score 5,000 career points.

"I would compare her game very much to the style of game that boys play," said Braham coach Tim Malone, who took the reins of the varsity program when Rebekah was entering eighth grade. "She uses her body very well and plays at such a high tempo. Sometimes you almost feel like you have to slow her down from 100 mph to 80 mph. It's fun to watch."

So, too, thought the McDonald's All American Games selection committee, which appointed her to play in Wednesday's game at the United Center in Chicago, arguably the highest honor bestowed upon high school basketball players. She is also expected to compete in the 3-point Shootout in Monday night's POWERADE Jam Fest.

When she laces up her sneakers for the last time as a high schooler, it'll be in the house that Michael Jordan built. And she may not have the flashiest crossover dribble on the court, but you'll notice her. She'll be the one throwing her body around the court with reckless abandon in an attempt to find any possible way to win.

"She gives a lot of credit to her family and getting beat up by her older brothers," Malone said. "She has a toughness about her that allows her to do whatever it takes to win."

Never was this trait more visible than in Braham's third game of the season, a narrow seven-point victory over Park Center (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) when the team was still adjusting to the loss of four key players from a season ago. Possession after possession, Braham found itself in a need-to-score situation, and possession after possession, Dahlman would drive into the lane and get pounded. Nineteen times she went to the line, and she made every single free throw. Her 43 points that game put her over the 4,000-point milestone for her career and assured Malone that Braham would be in good hands this season.

"When your best player is your senior and your captain and your floor leader, everything as a coach becomes so easy," Malone said.

Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb and the Commodores, already stacked with youth, are in for a treat when Dahlman sets foot on Vanderbilt's campus in the fall. She'll bring with her an arsenal that can rack up 35 points one night and then lead the team in assists the next. She can take three charges in the first quarter and then draw a fifth and final foul on the opponent's best player in the fourth quarter.

Vanderbilt can only watch and wait for this exceptional girl who hails from a town without a single stoplight, and who has no stoplight of her own, either.