IMG_1765–USE THIS

Lutheran High North sophomore Dalanna Carter prepares to shoot a free throw during a Jan. 9 game against The Village School. (Photo by Landan Kuhlmann)

It is often said that no distance is too great when it’s for something or someone you love.

The sentiment applies to the supporters of Lutheran High North girls basketball player Dalanna Carter, who said her family has driven several hours at times to watch her play. Carter and her family make daily and weekly hour-long trips from their home in Mont Belvieu to the Lutheran High North campus at 1130 W. 34th St. so she can showcase her skills on the court and in the classroom.

Carter, a sophomore point guard for the Lady Lions, said her family’s support has been a strong foundation, one that she tries to repay by lifting up those around her on and off the court. She transferred to Lutheran High North shortly before this season after attending Barbers Hill High School as a freshman.

“They will all make that drive,” she said with a laugh. “With them doing that, it makes me really want to do better.”

Whether at home or from his perch near the Lady Lions’ sideline – where he stands or sits almost every game – her father Dale also has a front-row seat to his daughter’s growth. They have spent hours together on the basketball court, but he said he has tried to instill a fire in her that extends even beyond the gym.

“Basketball relates to life. I’ve also always tried to teach her to be humble, and remember that she’s not bigger than the game or that she’s ever reached her peak,” he said. “You don’t compete against anyone but yourself to always be better. I teach her that you do that on the court and also in school.”

The support has been there from the jump for Carter. From the moment she joined Mont Belvieu’s Little Dribblers league in second grade, Dale has coached her up in both basketball and in life – a bond Dalanna said she appreciates beyond throwing a ball through a hoop.

“He wants the best for me and to be successful in life,” she said. “He doesn’t want me to have any regrets.”

No bad days

Dalanna Carter’s skill on the court cannot be denied. She was named the District 21-5A MVP as a freshman at Barbers Hill last season, garnering an All-Region III selection and leading the Lady Eagles to a 32-5 record. So far this season for the Lady Lions, she is averaging better than 34 points and five rebounds per game along with nearly six steals per game, leading her team to a 10-3 record as of Tuesday. She’s one of several in her family to play the sport, with an older sister who played high school ball and an eighth-grade brother who also plays.

But Lutheran High North head coach John Slomcheck said her impact on the school and team goes well beyond the box score or how many 3-pointers she makes on a given night. From telling silly stories before practice to messing with her head coach’s “shoe game,” he said Carter’s enthusiasm and zest for life is infectious.

“This is probably the season I’ve enjoyed most in probably five or six years,” Slomcheck said. “It’s been a fun year, even during the pandemic.”

He said people play off Carter’s energy, whether it’s her teammates on the court or classmates during school.

“She’s kind of shy, quiet and unassuming when she’s off the court – you wouldn’t necessarily think she’s an athlete when you meet her. But she’s got an amazing, unique sense of humor, and kids just gravitate to her,” Slomcheck said. “She’s so infectious – she leads by example first and always has a positive attitude. So they gravitate to her. To a man, they look up to her.”

When an obstacle pops up – from schedule or rule changes due to COVID-19 protocols, off-court struggles and everything in between – Slomcheck said Carter is always one of the first to put a positive spin on the situation or encourage those around her. She consistently leads the team in prayer, he said, and is never shy about cracking a joke or telling a funny story from the school day to break any tension.

“I’ve seen her go from the first day of school – when she was really shy and quiet – to now where she’s really comfortable and doesn’t just talk to basketball people. She interacts in all her classes,” Slomcheck said. “And there’s nothing you can throw at this girl where she can’t turn a negative into a positive. It’s amazing – I don’t know where she gets it from. I have yet to see her have a bad day.”

According to Dale Carter, that’s how his daughter lives – it’s not just for show at school or on the court.

“She loves friends and getting along with people – her thing is, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’ That’s the way she likes her life to be,” he said.

It’s just another lesson instilled in the younger Carter from her father, who she called her driving force on the court.

“Yeah, we’ll bump heads on occasion, but that just makes us stronger,” she said.

Overcoming obstacles

Carter’s transfer from Barbers Hill could have potentially never happened. Dale Carter said his daughter was initially apprehensive about the private school environment due to her dyslexia, not knowing how the more intimate environment would react or treat her.

“(Dyslexia) has been a struggle,” he said. “But I think her playing basketball, she figures out how to overcome obstacles on the court. And now just like basketball, she’s overcoming that.”

A big part of that can be attributed, he said, to Lutheran High North, both the basketball and non-sports community.

“We stepped out on faith and said, ‘Let’s give it a shot this year.’ The invitation was open to us to come here so we did,” Dale Carter said. “She tells me, ‘I wish we would’ve done it last year.’ It’s been so inviting, and everyone welcomed her with open arms. She’s loved it so much.”

It appears to have been reciprocated as Dalanna Carter echoed her father’s sentiment.

“This year has just been the best for me, because my teammates are just letting me be myself out on the court and off the court. Nobody’s judging me or anything,” she said.

As he sat there Jan. 9 watching his daughter slice her way through yet another defense from the Lady Lions’ sideline, Dale looked to be beaming with pride – all the while still coaching his daughter up when he could after another hour-long drive.

They wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s so worth it,” Dale said with a smile.

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