JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Noah Dahlman likes to say his summer job reflected the way he plays basketball as a junior forward for Wofford.
Dahlman worked on the groundskeeping crew the past three summers at the Carolina Panthers' training camp at Wofford.
"I mowed grass in the summer on a mower, a big one, for about two, three hours a day in that blistering South Carolina heat," Dahlman said. "At night I'd do security in the Panthers' locker room. I vacuumed, picked up the trash. It's pretty similar to my work on the court. Nothing pretty."
Pretty or not, Dahlman is the most influential player for No. 13 seed Wofford (26-8) as it prepares to meet No. 4 seed Wisconsin (23-8) at about 2:50 p.m. today in the NCAA tournament South Regional.
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Named the Southern Conference player of the year by the league's coaches, Dahlman averages 16.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He's undersized for a power forward at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, but he beats bigger opponents with quickness, hustle and heart.
Wofford coach Mike Young said Dahlman outraces opponents down the court for baskets, scraps for offensive rebounds and has a knack for getting fouled.
"He's got a motor like no other," Young said. "For a fan of basketball watching him play every day, that's the most fun. He is the toughest guy. ... He's a program changer."
Young originally was reluctant to recruit Dahlman because he was from so far away, in frigid Braham, Minn. Young had no connections there and feared his effort would be wasted. But Dahlman visited Wofford on a gorgeous fall weekend and fell in love with the school - and the weather.
That opened the door for Young to land fellow Minnesotans Jamar Diggs (9.4 ppg) and Cameron Rundles (6.6 ppg), so three of Wofford's top scorers come from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. They helped the school win the Southern Conference tournament to earn its first NCAA bid.
"Boy, they've been great for us," Young said. "We'll go back to Minnesota (to recruit), rest assured."
The Minnesota influence has created an intriguing story line for Wofford this week. Dahlman has extensive experience playing in the Midwest against some of Wisconsin's players, including 6-10 Jon Leuer, whom he will guard today.
Seven players in today's game hail from Minnesota - the three Terriers and four for the Badgers.
Wisconsin showed interest in Dahlman early but never offered a scholarship.
"It would have been great," Dahlman said. "But obviously I didn't grow enough and my jump shot didn't progress enough, but I'm happy with where I'm at."