Dr. Laura's still got game

Everyone loves a comeback story, but nobody would have guessed that it would take this long for Dr. Laura Dahl to make hers.

Or that she would make one at all.

The 1982 Bremerton High graduate, already a practicing pediatrician and wife, was four months pregnant when she figured out a way to satisfy her hoop dreams.

“It was just by chance that I ended up playing again,” said Dahl, now in her second season as a starting forward with the Mt. Hood Community College Saints in Gresham, Ore. “I’d always had the itch, but I never thought I’d do it.”

Dahl married orthodontist Darrell Angle two years ago and the athletic-minded couple – he’s a triathlete and Dahl has run a marathon and played softball for years – were expecting a child when she logged on to the computer one day to check out Mt. Hood’s Web site.

“It’s the closest community college to where we live and I was thinking about taking some classes,” said Dahl, who turns 38 on Jan. 3. “I came across the athletics page and started reading about the eligibility requirements. I found out I still had eligibility. I brought it up to my husband, who’d played (basketball) in college.

“I was bummed I didn’t play. Don’t get me wrong, I was completely happy with my choices and my career, but it’s always something I wished I would have done. My husband was all for it. He encouraged me to try out.”

Son Joshua was born on Sept. 11, 2000. Two weeks later, Dahl was taking part in Mt. Hood’s tryouts.

Dahl not only made the team, but was Mt. Hood’s second-leading scorer (8.4 ppg) and top rebounder (5.4 rpg) last season. Through 11 games this season, the 5-foot-10 Dahl’s averaging 10.4 points and 8.6 rebounds.

But she’s more than a basketball player for the Saints.

“Here’s someone who’s been through medical school and has a thriving practice,” Mt. Hood coach Daryle Broadsword said. “She wanted to accomplish something. It was a lifelong goal and she is now coming back and doing it.

“Laura’s a great role model for kids. If you put your mind to it and stay focused on something and work toward that goal, you can achieve it. It’s really a great experience for our kids to have someone who’s as driven and focused as she is.”

It didn’t take her teammates long to accept her, not after watching the well-conditioned Dahl go about her business on the court.

“I still dive for loose balls and try to hustle and be physical,” said Dahl, as aggressive as any player on the court during a recent game at Highline.

She fouled out of the Highline game after being called for a double foul with 1:14 left, but not before scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

“One of the officials thought I was getting a little rough,” Dahl later said.

“Dr. Laura’s not a nice lady in the paint,” said retired Bremerton High teacher and athletic trainier Al Smith, who’s been to a couple of Dahl’s games.

Dahl picked up a technical foul at Everett.

“I asked her what happened and she said got tired of listening to these gals give her a bad time about being an old woman,” Smith said. “Laura hasn’t changed.

“The girls’ game in high school has come so far the last 20 years. But I could take Laura Dahl to any high school gym in the state today and she could be competitive. The game has not passed her by whatsoever. She played the same way in high school.”

Dahl said it took some time to feel comfortable on the court.

“The toughest part at first was not feeling like I was as good as I was in high school,” she said. “I was frustrated because I couldn’t do things I could do when I was 18. My shot’s not as good. I’m not as quick as I was and I can’t jump as high. I try to make up for it by playing smarter.

“I tell myself, ‘Just be positive and enjoy the moment.’”

Dahl’s former high school coach, Mike Pugh, said that it sounded like Laura hadn’t changed at all.

“She was a very good looking lady, but once she put that uniform on, she was as feisty as anyone I ever had,” Pugh said. “She abused her body on the floor. She never backed down. For her to be the same way at 38, it just tells you what a competitor she is.”

Dahl continues to practice medicine in the mornings at her Lake Oswego, Ore. office, before practicing basketball in the afternoon. When she gets home, she lifts weights or hits the family treadmill. Then it’s time to hit the books.

“She makes me tired to watch her,” said Laura’s mother, Blanche Dahl. “She’s the world’s greatest juggler, but Laura’s always been able to do more than the average bear. This is just something she always wanted to do and her husband is so supportive.”

She has to take at least 12 credits per quarter to be eligible, and Dahl’s filled her schedule with economics, business, Spanish, fitness and computer classes.

“I try not to let it take up a whole lot of time, because I don’t have extra time,” said Dahl, who still maintains a 4.0 GPA. “I tried not to make it a priority. (School) is just a means to be able to play basketball. I’m learning a few things, but it’s not the focus.”

Not like it was after high school, where she spent 11 whirlwind years getting her undergraduate degree in bio-chemistry at Washington State University, medical degree at the Medical College of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) and completed her residency at Portland’s Oregon Health Science University.

Dahl’s older than some of her teammates’ mothers, but doesn’t look it.

“They give me a bad time, but I think I have their respect,” Dahl said. “I didn’t know who Shaggy was. Of course, they’d play his music for me all the time. It’s been fun. My teammates do typical things 18-, 19- and 20-year-old girls do. They talk about their boyfriends, and they include me in the conversation.”

She’s a little stiffer and sorer than her younger teammates after games and practices. But she said it’s been worth every bump and bruise.

“I look forward to practice,” Dahl said. “It’s my most favorite part of the day. I am getting a lot of satisfaction from it.

“There’s still some frustrations. Part of me wishes I could do better than I am. I just have to accept that I’m not 18 anymore. But I love being on the court and I love the game. I’ve finally fulfilled my dream for the game of basketball, just in a slightly different way.”

Her passion for the game was obvious to Broadsword the first day he met Dahl.

“When she showed up five months pregnant, you could see there was a desire to play,” Broadsword said. “She had an attitude to play that was much more keen and important than some kids coming right out of high school. They don’t have that passion and vision and feeling like they’d missed out on something like Laura had.”

There was a moment during a game against Clackamas last season that still brightens Dahl’s day when she thinks about it.

“I was having a pretty good game and the coach from the other team stood up and yelled at his team: ‘For crying out loud, No. 44 is kicking your butts and the last time I checked she was 38 years old.’ ”

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