February 13, 1999
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Pernille Dalgaard didn't even know what she was getting herself into.
The way she tells it, Dalgaard committed to Michigan State one November night in an Indiana hotel room without much idea of what her signature would entail.
"It's crazy when I look back now because I didn't know I was signing something that was going to shape the next four or five years of my life," Dalgaard said. "It probably will effect the rest of my life. You don't realize that when you sit in a hotel and sign a piece of paper, that it's going to have such an impact. I didn't ever look ahead when I signed it."
That same month in 1994, Dalgaard's Horsholm (Denmark) Club team beat MSU 76-74 in overtime in an exhibition game at the Breslin Center.
It would be the first of many games for the promising small forward. But mysteriously, the slashing penetrator known for scoring at will stayed in Europe. Her American counterpart didnt have nearly the same success.
In her first two seasons, Dalgaard scored a total of 60 points in 35 games. She didn't leave the bench for nearly half of the games in the Spartans' Big Ten Championship season of 1996-97. The feeling of doubt perpetuated into believing perhaps there were two different Pernille Dalgaards.
"It's very easy sometimes to lose your self-confidence and it's so hard to get it back," Dalgaard said. "I don't play with the same authority as I did at home because there was never anybody who questioned my ability and I never questioned myself.
"Now I catch myself doing that a lot and I think that has really hurt me. That's probably one of the things that is going to bother me when I look back."
Dalgaard will have the chance to look back Sunday as she is honored prior to her final home contest.
"I still can't believe we only have a couple of games left," said Dalgaard, who is averaging a career-high 8.0 points per game. "You know when you're in the middle of the season, you think it's going to be forever, and it's so long. It's never going to end - you've been doing it for years.
"When I look back, I feel like I just got here. It's not going to hit me until after it's over and I dont have to go to practice anymore."
The end is really only a new beginning for Dalgaard, who is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. She will delay playing basketball in Europe to pursue a master's degree and an international relations internship in Washington following her graduation in May.
After not knowing much about the basketball signing process four years ago, Dalgaard has gotten a handle on life after the sport.
She speaks fluent English, and select Danish phrases "when it's convenient," jokes head coach Karen Langeland. "I think Pernille understands the importance of an education at Michigan State University and the importance of playing basketball. She knows what a scholarship is all about and knows how to take advantage of an opportunity."
The 6-foot senior comes from Horsholm, Denmark, where there is little concern of social class or crime. Sport is separate from school and education is of primary importance.
With the exception of a couple bikes she's had stolen, Dalgaard considers East Lansing a safe place where academics and athletics merge harmoniously.
After making that transition successfully, Dalgaard will again have to make her next change a smooth one.
"Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when I came over here because now I think, 'I'm going to Washington, I'm not going to know anybody,'" Dalgaard said. "When I came over here I didn't think that way at all. I just jumped on the plane and I never even considered that I was going to another country. I think it helped me a lot."
The 22-year-old tri-captain is very different from the other version four years younger. The older counterpart plays more confident basketball, although that's not yet enough for Dalgaards standards.
And the older version has become more sentimental as the clock ticks closer to Sunday, marking the final time shell run the floor at Breslin. "I don't want to get emotional about it," she says of Sunday's pre-game ceremony which her parents will be unable to attend. "Especially because I have to stand out there by myself. This has been a great thing, and I'll just have to see it as that. You can't help but get emotional because you put so much of your hard work here, and so many happy times and a lot of sad times.
"You can't just leave it behind and not get emotional about it," she added.
This time, she'll know what she's doing.
Written by Joe Block, for MSU Sports Information