What’s in an Old Testament name?

I’m not exactly a Southern Conference basketball fanatic.

To put it more precisely, I’m not certain I knew there was such a thing as the Southern Conference until a GetReligion reader drew my attention to a 2,100-word profile of the league’s reigning top player.

However, the ESPN.com profile of Wofford’s Noah Dahlman grabbed my attention and made me want to read every word.

Nice writing and compelling subject matter will do that.

The top of the story:

By day, Wofford’s Noah Dahlman prefers to be called “Mr. D.”

It’s not a nickname for the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year, the dominating big man on campus who last season led the Terriers to their first league title and NCAA tournament appearance.

It’s not a title bestowed upon the descendant of basketball royalty who was raised on a farm in small-town Minnesota to become a rebounding legend and eventually one of the most relentless scorers in the nation (20.6 ppg).

No, Mr. D. is simply what his students call him. While Dahlman, in his senior year, is leading Wofford at the top of the SoCon South Division standings, he is also spending his final semester in a unique classroom setting, teaching American history to 11th graders at Chesnee (S.C.) High School.

Pulling double duty about a half-hour away from the Spartanburg campus requires him to rush back for 4:15 p.m. practices, leaving him little time to make the necessary costume change.

“It looks like Superman tearing the tie off,” Wofford coach Mike Young said. “In about two minutes, he’ll be in shorts. He’ll be playing like he’s been resting all day.”

Go ahead. Read the whole story. Enjoy it — mostly — but feel free to lament the giant religion ghost.

OK, done reading?

Did you spot the ghost?:

Nathan Dahlman and Kathy Kundla were coaching basketball at the same high school when they met, and their children, with names straight out of the Old Testament — Isaiah, Noah, Jonah, Hannah, Rebekah and Zachariah — will all likely end up having played college basketball. About an hour north of the Twin Cities in Braham, Minn. — population 1,660 and still without a stoplight — the siblings grew up with the game as a way of life.

Living on an 11-acre farm that sits on a dead-end gravel road about five miles from town, the family by choice does not own a television nor do they have the house wired for Internet access. But behind the barn that overlooks a grassy field, there is a basketball court, one in which an errant ball might bounce into the pigpen.

Names straight out of the Old Testament. Do you think there might be a religious tie there? Me too, but the story breezes right over that obvious question. At the same time, the purposeful lack of a TV or Internet access would seem to add urgency to that question. Perhaps there is no religious reason for that decision, but it certainly seems to demand the reporter ask — and let readers know. Right?

Curious, I spent at least 20 minutes trying a variety of search terms on Google. But this reference from a 2005 USA TODAY story focusing on Noah Dahlman’s brother Isaiah was all I found:

He is the oldest of six children. His siblings — Noah, Jonah, Hannah, Rebecca and Zachariah — sound like an Old Testament roll call. “My parents are religious, and the names are a constant reminder of the Bible,” Isaiah says.

Even that little bit of detail would have improved the ESPN story. Still, I’d love to know more — much more — about the role of religion in the lives of this basketball family.

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • http://www.thewardrobedoor.com Aaron

    After reading your article, I tried to go find some of the missing info about him from Wofford’s local paper (I grew up in the area). I dig for a few minutes at the Spartanburg Herald Journal’s website GoUpstate.com and couldn’t find much their either. They had a ton of stories on his performances for the Terriers, but I didn’t find a profile of him. I did not go through all the search results, but I did go through all of them from this basketball season. It’s a shame that someone hasn’t explored this angle of Dahlman.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Well, all four of our kids have New Testament names – all Apostles, in fact – but they weren’t named that way for religious reasons. Kids names, by themselves, don’t indicate much.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby


    I suspect your kids’ names are much more common than the “names straight out of the Old Testament — Isaiah, Noah, Jonah, Hannah, Rebekah and Zachariah” mentioned in the ESPN story.

    Kids names, by themselves, don’t indicate much.

    In the case of the six names in the ESPN story, I have to disagree. There’s a story there. I guarantee it. The reporter just didn’t tell it.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    I suspect your kids’ names are much more common…

    I suppose. We’ve got three out of four Gospels covered, and those aren’t uncommon names. On the other hand, I’m very used to people leaping to conclusions over those names, so perhaps I’m desensitized.