MILES CITY — On Monday night, the Miles Community College women’s basketball team will be playing for a shot to go to the junior college national tournament in Texas. A big reason why is the play of Australian freshman Rebekah Dallinger.
Dallinger leads the nation in scoring at 24.9 points per game, has made the most free throws in the country and is in the top 20 in assists. But how did such a tremendous talent wind up across the world at a JUCO in Miles City?
“She was at a crossroads where she had offers. She had to make the decision, was she happy with those offers or did she kind of want to gamble on herself and see if she could get something a little bigger. And that’s what she did and I’m really proud of her for that," Miles Community College head coach Taylor Harris said. "I think that’s what junior college is all about. That’s why we’re all here, is to gamble on ourselves, and she did that.”
“One of my basketball coaches from back home knows Taylor really well. He’s been out there a few times to watch me and my friend play basketball," Dallinger said. "I really liked his approach to me and how he sold the school and community, so that’s what made me move here.”
Of course the uncertainty surrounding COVID affected her decision, but former MCC standout Binta Salawu is another reason Dallinger finds herself in Montana. Salawu parlayed her success at the JUCO level the Pioneers into a NCAA Division I basketball scholarship at St. Peter’s University, something that’s also on the mind of Dallinger.
“It really helped that I knew of her. My friend from Sydney (Australia) was also here until she broke her wrist and had to go home, but that was a really big factor that pushed me to come here, because she was here," said Dallinger.
“We have mutual friends in Sydney. We talked and our first conversation was 90 minutes. I had to be up at 2 in the morning because of the time difference, but I think (Dallinger) just wanted somebody who believed in her and her ability to gamble on herself to really make something out of this junior college experience. And I’m so proud of her. She is a junior college success story. It’s amazing to see," Harris said.
Dallinger will need to continue to dazzle on the floor on Monday night against Dawson Community College for the Pioneers to punch a ticket to Lubbock, Texas, for the national tournament.
“We’re talking the whole time saying, ‘Enjoy these. Take pictures. Enjoy these times with your teammates, because it’s never going to be like this again,'" Harris said. "Every team is different. Every situation is different. Every year is different. It’s never going to be like this again. Just really enjoy the moment, not only for us, but for those that don’t get to play this year, for those that don’t get to experience March Madness. Do it for them.”
A big-time offer likely awaits Dallinger in the future, but she's focused on helping the Pioneers extend their season. Tipoff on Monday night is scheduled for 7 p.m.