The unmistakable red hair, which shines more than Dorothy's ruby slippers, covers the large "USI" letters on the front of Morgan Dahlstrom's hoodie until a Grayslake Central basketball teammate instructs her to brush the mane.
The red hair, Dahlstrom claims, comes from her great grandma, who died at the young age of 101, and her dad's beard.
"I used to have red hair," said Dave Dahlstrom, whose wavy hair has gone gray.
Holy cow, her hair has become as popular as her game on the basketball court.
Take the story, compliments of her grandfather Irwin, about the red-haired steer.
The Dahlstroms were at a petting zoo in Door County when they were steered toward a steer. Morgan's hair had competition. She posed for a picture with the friendly animal.
"Same red," Dave Dahlstrom said.
"I'm famous for that picture," Morgan said, laughing. "I had 200 'Likes' on Facebook."
What's not to like about Morgan Dahlstrom? Great hair. Great kid. Great game.
So fabulous, in fact, that the University of Southern Indiana offered the 6-foot-1 senior a scholarship, and last week Grayslake Central's four-year varsity center signed with the Division II school in Indianapolis.
"Her game is getting better and better still," Rams coach Steve Ikenn said. "Which is one of things whenever I would talk to (college) coaches I would tell them about her. She wants to go out strong."
Dahlstrom was joined by her parents Dave and Stefani, grandfather and all of her hoops teammates and coaches for her signing ceremony at the high school. She started talking with Southern Indiana's coaches this past summer. After she played for Kessel Heat in an AAU tournament in Chicago, interest heightened.
The big whiteboard in Dave Dahlstrom's office listed all the colleges his daughter was considering. Southern Indiana quickly became Morgan's choice.
"I just wrote (on the whiteboard) all the schools that I was looking at," Dahlstrom said. "I wrote down pros and cons."
Southern Indiana, which is about a six-hour drive, had lots of pros. Rick Stein coaches the Screaming Eagles, who went 17-10 and 9-9 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference last season.
"They were the first to offer, so they were pretty high on my list," Dahlstrom said. "I really didn't know much about them when I first started talking to them, but when I went and visited, I really liked it. I appreciated it."
She appreciated more than just the basketball program.
"They have a good exercise science program, and I want to go into physical therapy," Dahlstrom said. "Probably one of the turning points was the team. I got to do an overnight with the (players). They were funny, and I just felt like I fit in there."
Funny? That's Dahlstrom's personality. After all, if you're going to pose with a steer, you have to know how to laugh at yourself.
She also visited Hope College, where former Grayslake Central teammates Rebekah Llorens (basketball) and Kat Dickson (soccer) are playing, as well as DePauw and Lewis.
As a freshman, Dahlstrom played varsity on a Rams team that won a Class 3A sectional championship. She backed up two special kids, seniors Llorens and Dickson.
"She's been with me every day since I've been here," said Ikenn, whose team started its fourth season under his direction Monday, received 21 points from Dahlstrom and beat Dundee-Crown. "Bringing her up was one of the first decisions I made. I said (laughing), 'I'm bringing the freshman up NOW.' "
Ikenn liked Dahlstrom's size, her ability to be coached and her maturity.
"She played much more mature than she was," he said. "And I thought she could learn a lot going against Beka and Kat every day at practice. I knew that would make her a better player."
In her second season as a varsity starter last winter, Dahlstrom had a breakout campaign, averaging a double-double of 12.3 points and 10.2 rebounds, as the Rams won 20 games. In a Thanksgiving game at Buffalo Grove against the host school, she nearly posted a triple double (17 points, 12 rebounds, 9 blocks).
More big things are expected this season from the Rams' "Big Red."
"I think we have a lot of potential," Dahlstrom said. "I know if we put in a lot of work, then we could be a really good team. But there's a lot of work we need to do before we're there."
She can be serious, when needed.
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