Feb. 18, 2014
By Jerome Boettcher | Subscribe to Commodore Nation
Rebekah Dahlman knows she was there.
Photographical proof confirms this. She doesn’t remember much, though. Well, she was just an infant.
Photos show baby Rebekah being held by “some famous person.” No doubt, there were probably a few of them around. After all, Rebekah’s grandfather was being enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“It started with my grandpa,” she said.
Dahlman, a heralded freshman guard at Vanderbilt, is the latest hardwood chapter for a basketball family steeped in tradition.
Her mother’s father, John Kundla, was the first coach of the Minneapolis Lakers. He coached legend George Mikan, among others, won six basketball championships and is one of only three coaches to win three straight NBA championships (1952-54).
“It is so cool to hear all the stories he tells,” Dahlman said. “He loves telling jokes to us. He literally puts a huge smile on my face. Great role model and I love him to death.”
The basketball gene carried down two generations.
Rebekah is one of six children, all of whom played basketball. Her parents, Nate and Kathy, also played and coached basketball.
Her oldest brother, Isaiah, set the Minnesota prep scoring record before going to Michigan State and helping the Spartans to two Final Fours. Noah Dahlman grabbed more rebounds than anyone in Minnesota high school history. He played collegiately at Wofford and plays overseas in Bulgaria. Last winter, Jonah wrapped up a career filled with all-conference accolades at Division III St. Scholastica University in Duluth, Minn.
Rebekah cherishes the two years she shared on the court with her older sister, Hannah. The duo captured a state championship in 2011. And now, her younger brother, Zachariah, is a senior at Braham High School, carrying on the hoops tradition for the tiny Minnesota town an hour north of Minneapolis.
“(Braham) is huge basketball. That is what we are known for,” Rebekah said. “I feel like we established it. Our family. It started with my brothers (Isaiah and Noah), them winning three state titles in a row. That has had a huge name for our town and we just kept getting better from there after they left.”
While her grandfather might have set the hoops tone decades ago, Rebekah says her father laid the foundation.
Nate Dahlman, who played Division III basketball in Minnesota, coached Rebekah from second grade until her senior year of high school. She remembers long hours in the gym in order to perfect the fundamentals.
“I wouldn’t be the player I am today without him,” she said. “Up to this day I can’t be more thankful. I remember him always taking me into the gym and working on my left hand, working on everything.”
Genes, talent, hard work and plenty of practice all contributed to the making of one of the best high school players in the country.
Not to be outdone by her record-breaking brothers, Isaiah and Noah, Rebekah scored 5,060 points in her career to become the first girls basketball player in Minnesota history to score more than 5,000.
She averaged 35.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists as a senior. She ended her career as a two-time Gatorade basketball player of the year and was named a McDonald’s All-American.
Offers poured in from Tennessee, Baylor, Florida and Minnesota. She admits her knowledge of Vanderbilt before visiting campus was limited. But she left impressed by head coach Melanie Balcomb, the coaching staff and her future teammates.
In fact, she remembers being sold when the coaches took her to the site of the 2014 Women’s Final Four, the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, and told her they wanted her to be part of something special.
“I want to change this program,” she said. “I want to be part of Coach Balcomb’s legacy here. We can do damage here. We can get to a Final Four. I believe in this program, coaching staff and team.”
Dahlman was a freshman dandy until she got hurt. She averaged 11.4 points in her first nine games. She scored 23 points in her first game—the most in a freshman debut in Vanderbilt history. Unfortunately, Dahlman was sidelined indefinitely in mid-December she underwent two surgeries to repair a blood clot in her arm and has not played since. When she does return expect the same competitiveness and passion for basketball that runs in the family. “We always compete whenever we go home,” she said. “I know for Christmas we always have a family HORSE game (with her parents and five siblings). So it is always competitive there. Last year, I took second. Isaiah cheated, I swear. He was doing some trick shots. “It is always fun to all be in the gym at once.”