Women’s basketball freshman Katie Dierdorf was raised in St. Louis, but her heart has always been in Ann Arbor. The daughter of former Michigan offensive tackle Dan Dierdorf, an All-America selection in 1970, Katie grew up enamored with the Maize and Blue. She started attending football games at Michigan Stadium when she was a little girl.
“We must have 200 pictures of Katie from when she was 18 months old, pushing a baby stroller with a Michigan T-shirt on,” Dan Dierdorf said.
Even though she wanted to be a Wolverine for most of her life, it was a trip to the 1997 Rose Bowl that really confirmed her dream.
“I was pretty young, but I remember sitting there in the middle of all those fans and thinking how great it would be to go to a college like that,” Katie said.
The 2004 Missouri Ms. Basketball briefly considered attending Colorado and Missouri. But when it came time to make a decision, there was really just one choice.
“Ever since she was old enough to think about going to college, this is where she wanted to be,” her father said. “She couldn’t be happier.”
But not everything has gone according to plan. Four weeks ago, Dierdorf broke the thumb on her shooting hand, and she has been playing with a rigid splint on it ever since. Her father believes the injury has hindered Dierdorf’s shooting ability, and it may have contributed to her limited playing time so far this season.
In Michigan’s first five games, Dierdorf, playing with the brace, scored just seven points in 32 minutes off the bench. But her father says the thumb will be re-examined this week and she may be able to remove the splint soon.
Her improvement showed in the Wolverines’ 45-43 victory over UNLV Monday night. Dierdorf logged 15 minutes, notched three points and grabbed two rebounds. After the Lady Rebels closed Michigan’s lead to two midway through the second half, Dierdorf scored three straight points, including a clutch jumper off an offensive rebound by freshman Janelle Cooper.
But it was her tough inside defense that had the biggest impact on the game, helping to hold UNLV to just 43 points, which is more than 28 below its season average.
“Katie gave us something that only Katie could give us, and that’s a post player that can run the floor in defensive transition and get in the lane,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “She gained a lot of confidence in her rebounding and execution (in the game). Her minutes were quality minutes.”
Senior forward Tabitha Pool believes Dierdorf’s hard work in practice each day paid off with her solid performance Monday night. But even if Dierdorf continues to improve with each game, it might not be enough to keep her father calm.
“I played at every level, but nothing prepares you for being a father, sitting up in the stands and watching your daughter play college basketball,” Dan said. “It’s torture — I’m going to get an ulcer from this — I know it.”