Bracketed brothers make tournament a family affair
With one son playing on the East Coast and the other playing out West, Nate Dahlman came up with a game plan to keep the madness out of his March.
He won't attend either game.
Eartha Rigsby, on the other hand, has a different dilemma. Her sons are key players for Vermont and Syracuse, who happen to face each other Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The way she sees it, her only choice is to sit proudly in the stands and cheer for, well, everyone.
``Everything is a blessing,'' Rigsby said. ``There are no losers here.''
The NCAA selection committee has long had a knack for tucking intriguing coaching matchups and long-festering feuds inside the brackets. This year, though, it's all about the strange twists and turns of family.
Rigsby's sons, Kris and Maurice Joseph, will suit up for the Orange and Catamounts, who play in Buffalo, N.Y., in a 1 vs. 16 matchup.
Dalhman's sons, Isaiah and Noah, play for Michigan State and Wofford - two teams that couldn't be farther apart when they take the court Friday. Michigan State plays in Spokane, Wash., and Wofford is in Jacksonville, Fla.
Their father, meanwhile, will be in Minneapolis coaching his two daughters, Hannah and Rebekah, when Braham Area High plays Pipestone in the semifinals of the Class 2A girls state tournament.
``Being a coach, my main focus is taking care of the high school team here,'' Dahlman said. ``That's our journey. I'm part of that, as are the girls. The boys are on their journey. I'm rooting for them, of course. But if I don't get to be part of that, that's OK.''
Dahlman has three decades of teaching under his belt in the town of Braham, population 1,655 (The Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota), that he describes as a one-grocery-store stopover.
``Still no stoplight,'' Noah Dahlman said. ``We're trying to move up in the world.''
In the world of basketball, though, the town stands tall.
Braham's Josh Vaughan was a star on the North Dakota State team that made an inspiring run to the tournament last year. There are the Dahlman boys - Isaiah highly recruited and Noah less so, but still leading Wofford at 16.8 points a game. Then, there are the Dahlman girls. Hannah, a junior, could play at a smaller Division I or Division II school while Rebekah, a freshman, is already drawing interest from the Big Ten and elsewhere.
``What's the secret?'' Nate Dahlman said. ``We work hard. We practice hard. There's not a lot to do except come to the gym and play basketball. It's sort of a Minnesota version of Hoosiers. The kids come to the gym. They all grew up with it since kindergarten.''
He says his family lives a simple life. They got rid of the TV when it broke a few years ago and, voila, suddenly found themselves playing games, interacting, talking to each other more. There are two other boys, Jonah and Zachariah. Raising six kids on a teacher's salary doesn't leave lots of room for discretionary spending, and so, the trips to see the boys play are infrequent.
Earlier this season, though, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo put Wofford on the schedule as a way of holding a little family reunion. The Dahlmans piled in the car, drove 12-13 hours to East Lansing and watched the Spartans win 72-60. Isaiah got the start and scored two points in 12 minutes. Noah started, too, and had 19 points in 26 minutes.
Dad has a sense of what Rigsby and her family can expect when her sons meet in Buffalo.
``They hugged each other at center court, they got announced at the same time,'' Dahlman said of his boys' game. ``There were tears coming down my face. It was very, very special. It's hard to explain that. You really can't put it into words.''
Rigsby, who lives in Montreal where, she promises, there's every bit as much youth basketball going on as hockey, said she's been walking around with a smile on her face since the pairings were announced Sunday night.
Almost as soon as that happened, Kris, the younger brother at Syracuse, called Maurice, the older brother at Vermont.
``We were both pretty much going crazy on the phone. No words, just screaming. I don't know how we communicated,'' Kris Joseph said.
They have not faced each other in a real game with real referees since Kris was 8. Maurice's team won that day. Not surprisingly, Maurice beat up on Kris pretty bad in driveways and playgrounds for years afterward, as well. Every younger brother knows that pain.
``I've got all types of permanent bruises on my body because of him,'' Kris said.
Then, Kris started growing, and things evened out. He enrolled at Syracuse, where he has averaged 11.3 points and more than five rebounds in his sophomore year. He's this season's Big East sixth man of the year.
Maurice, meanwhile, started his college career at Michigan State but was looking for a change of scenery and a place where he could play more. So, he sat out a year, then went to Vermont, where he's the second-leading scorer (14.5), and will find himself in a strange position against his younger brother: Playing the role of underdog.
``Maurice was more driven for the love of the game than Kristopher was at a young age,'' their mother said. ``But Kristopher developed into a strong competitor. As the younger brother, you want to do everything your older brother is doing.''
Nothing like doing it together, in the case of the Joseph boys.
Or doing it apart, in the case of the Dahlmans.
Nate and his daughters will be on the bus Friday at around the time Noah's game - Wofford vs. Wisconsin - reaches full swing. They'll be on the court at about the time Isaiah's game - Michigan State vs. New Mexico State - tips off.
Winners and losers?
``You're probably asking the wrong guy,'' Dahlman said. ``Whatever happens, happens. One thing we know is that the sun always comes up again, no matter what.''
AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Minneapolis, John Kekis in Syracuse, N.Y. and Mark Long in Jacksonville, Fla., contributed to this report.