At some, or several junctures after his college basketball career concludes, Michigan State guard and Braham, Minn. native Isaiah Dahlman will accurately state to friends, family and peers the following sentence:
"I played for Tom Izzo."
And I ask, gentle reader -- which word or words within the above attain the greatest gravity?
Should it be either of the bookend nouns, namely the latter, I would be in complete agreement. Izzo is deservedly known as a legend of college hoops, sporting a resume that lays claim to four Final 4 appearances, a national championship and a career winning percentage above .700. Yet, and perhaps sadly, it is the verbiage within that statement that has, or ultimately will gather lament before celebration.
Dahlman too has a fine curriculum vitae on the hardwood. He was the 2006 Minnesota Mr. Basketball, a three-time state champ at the class 2A level who averaged better than 33 points in his senior season and, up until last year, the state's all-time leading scorer with over 3,300 points in his luminary high school career.
But such success has not translated to the college level. Dahlman, now in his junior season with the Spartans, returns to Minnesota on Wednesday with the aforementioned Izzo, a Michigan St. team that carries a 9-2 record along with a lofty national ranking and, mournfully, just 40 made field goals in his 2 ½ seasons in East Lansing. True, the young fella has missed some time via injury -- but Dahlman's pedestrian college career has unfortunately become a cautionary tale instead of the Horatio Alger/Kevin McHale yarn that so many wanted to spin for the small town kid.
What is of great concern is that Dahlman's collegiate arc does not appear to be one of ascent. Again, the kid missed some time last season with injury. But in his freshman year, Dahlman played in 26 games, recording more than 20 minutes played in seven of those contests. Last season, he found double-digit court minutes just once. Thus far into 2008, Isaiah Dahlman has yet to play just eight minutes in a single game -- and the conference season has yet to begin.
What must seem a semi-cruel irony is that Dalhman's younger brother, Noah, himself a fine high school player, is now woofing up minutes for the Wofford College Terriers (Spartanburg, SC) of the D-1 Southern Conference. Noah may have been the less celebrated of the kin, but for non-Minnesotans that may be hard to glean at this point. The younger Dahlman played in 30 games as a freshman last season, averaging over 23 minutes, seven points, and six rebounds a game. This year, Noah is one of Wofford's top players, as readily evidenced by his 30 minutes, 14 points and over seven rebounds per contest for the 4-4 Terriers.
There are nearly 350 Division-1 college basketball schools in the country and on New Year's Eve, the Barn will host two of the nation's top-21. The Gophers are off to their best start since three years prior to Tubby Smith's birth. Isaiah Dahlamn will no doubt be there, but it would be of great surprise if the talented junior will do little more than dress, wave a towel, and wonder if the Gophers are one of the 300-plus other teams that he could have spent his college career actually playing for.
Please be sure to check back later in the week for a chunky Vikings versus Eagles playoff preview.
Lastly, the Gopher football team faces Kansas tomorrow at 5 in the Insight Bowl. Forgive the brevity of this mention, however -- gathering by the lack of vibe on the street -- I'm feel I'm not alone in owning a minimal interest in a game featuring two 7-5 teams and an Over/Under of 58.
Finally today -- a very happy New Year's for all. Enjoy and be safe.