Killdeer’s Megan Klein brings nation-leading rebounding to Dickinson State Blue Hawks women's basketball
Some basketball players keep track of their stats in their head. Megan Klein tried to count how many rebounds she collects in a game.It usually gets to a point where she can't keep track.The Dickinson State junior center from Killdeer has totaled...
Some basketball players keep track of their stats in their head. Megan Klein tried to count how many rebounds she collects in a game.
It usually gets to a point where she can’t keep track.
The Dickinson State junior center from Killdeer has totaled an NAIA Division II-high 351 total rebounds - 13 a game - and is second in the nation with 17 double-doubles.
But to her, rebounding is just a job.
Her job performance has helped the No. 24-ranked Blue Hawks (21-7, 9-3 North Star Athletic Association) take the No. 2 seed going into the NSAA Tournament quarterfinals against seventh-seeded Viterbo (6-22, 2-7 NSAA) at 7 p.m. tonight at Scott Gymnasium.
A long road back
Klein admits she sets the standard for herself extremely high.
“I definitely get frustrated with myself more than anything,” Klein said. “I just see that as passion. I’m very passionate about my game, and I think the better I get the more emotion I show. I never showed much emotion in high school, so I guess that comes with age and maturity.”
But it wasn’t an easy path - it was actually anything but - for the former Cowboys standout.
Klein initially went to the University of Mary in Bismarck, which began recruiting Klein her sophomore year of high school before she verbally committed her junior year and signed her senior year.
But injuries limited Klein’s progression throughout her prep career. In her junior high track and field season, a coaches’ dog blindsided her while she was running during a practice, tearing her ACL and meniscus in her left knee.
“It was a nasty situation,” Klein said. “I had surgery right away. It was terrible. And it was the summer before my senior year, and every senior just wants to have a great year.”
Following rehabilitation, she had that same meniscus scoped after fighting through a “mediocre” senior season.
Klein admitted she wasn’t as strong as she should’ve been before she started practicing with Mary.
Her first year with the Marauders, her meniscus “popped” during practice - but she didn’t know it had for about a month - then went to get another surgery.
That piled on the fact that Klein didn’t feel comfortable with the coaches at the time.
“I really started to lose the love of the game,” Klein said. “I was kind of over it and going to give it up. … Then my mom says, ‘Try going to Dickinson.’”
So Klein contacted DSU head coach Mark Graupe - and when a 6-foot-1 local player offers to join your team, Graupe said, you don’t turn her down.
“And I got the love back for the game, which is awesome to say,” Klein said. “There’s athletes that lose it, but I’ve definitely got it back with this transfer, and I’m so glad I came here. This team is awesome.”
As for her knee, she was given the OK to take her knee brace off two years ago - but she’s had it for so long now that it almost feels like a “mental blanket” and it’s her signature piece on the basketball court.
The right fit
Klein said she’s been humbled by her collegiate experience and is thankful for those who have been with her at DSU.
One of which was Graupe, who encouraged Klein when she struggled offensively to start off her first full season a year ago. He pointed out her calling: grab rebounds.
Klein, Graupe and Blue Hawks junior guard Lorna Shepherd all pointed to the beginning of conference play last season when, for whatever reason, Klein began to dominate.
In DSU’s first NSAA game of 2014-15 season, she went off for 21 points and 15 rebounds to help the Blue Hawks to a 75-59 win over Mayville State.
“She just came out of the woodwork in the very first conference game, and that just lit a fire under her,” Graupe said. “Ever since, she’s just been unbelievable. Almost every game, I can count on a double-double.”
That sparked her run to being named the NSAA defensive player of the year.
“Rebounding doesn’t take talent, you just have to have that desire,” Graupe said. “And something went off in Megan where she just has that spark and desire. A light bulb went off.”
So much so that Klein believes other teams scout her from keeping her from collecting so many boards.
And the scoring just comes - sometimes via offensive rebounds and putbacks.
Pride in the dirty work
Klein said she’s gotten to know her teammates so well that she can usually tell whenever they’re going to miss. Whenever that shot goes up, she has taught herself not to crowd the paint, but to find her “spot” - where she thinks the rebound will land.
“Most of the time, I’m pretty accurate,” Klein said with a smile.
Graupe said Klein is responsive to his criticism, and usually it’s a positive response that includes an emotional fire.
“I just got on her Saturday and I said, ‘Megan, you’re not blocking shots. Every single time they’re shooting over you and you’re not a presence,’ to remind her she’s defensive player of the year,” Graupe said. “I didn’t say that, but I’m not kidding you, within 30 seconds she goes up and just swats one. So sometimes she just needs that little spark so to speak.”
Graupe also praised Klein’s basketball intelligence. In fact, Klein picks things up faster than just about anyone Graupe has coached in his near 30 years of experience, which includes time as a head coach at the NCAA Division I level.
It’s to the point now that Graupe lets Klein take charge of the defense and huddles in practices.
“Her passion is the most interesting part,” Shepherd said. “Like when we’re out on the court, if we’re struggling, not getting there or lacking on getting rebounds, or something small that we should be doing, she’s the first one that has our heads in.”
Shepherd said while most shooters shouldn’t think like this, she shoots with more confidence knowing that Klein has a pretty good chance of getting the rebound if she misses.
So effectively, Shepherd said, she makes her whole team more confident.
“You always have people on your team who are dirty players. They do the dirty work,” Shepherd said. “Megan, without ever complaining or sitting there saying, ‘Oh this sucks,’ always took that job. Rebounds have always been seen as the dirty job. You have to do the work.
“And she just takes that and goes, ‘Well I’m going to be the best at doing the dirty work for this team.’ So that consistency through conference holds us because every team knows they’re going to have to make the basket, or they’re not going to get the rebound.”