POTSDAM -- Fred LaPoint refers to Karen (Burns) Dandrow as the most natural athlete he’s ever coached, but it took some work by the coach to convince the young talent to join the girls’ basketball team at Knox Memorial High School.
“I had known her since second or third grade, so I had to persuade her to take up basketball as a sophomore,” said LaPoint, who coached at the high school, which has since been renamed to Edwards-Knox, for 37 years. “She started out as a cheerleader, so unfortunately I only had her for three years.”
The move turned out to be a good one for SUNY Potsdam, where Dandrow, a 1990 graduate and 2010 Bears Hall of Fame inductee, emerged as a double-double machine and two-time honorable mention All-American for the Bears women’s basketball team. The All-SUNYAC perfomer is currently second in rebounding and third in scoring in program history.
“From my first day of basketball, I wondered if I’ll even make the team,” Dandrow said. “I had more success than I thought I’d have. I played basketball with my whole heart. I loved the game … and I still love it.”
After a standout high school career in four sports, Dandrow, a Russell native, decided to attend Ithaca over Clarkson, which had also recruited her.
After playing at Ithaca for one season, Dandrow elected to transfer to Potsdam, where she tried out for the team as a walk-on.
“I wanted to be a little closer to home, and Potsdam had the education program I wanted,” Dandrow said. “I knew I wanted to play basketball, too, so I tried out and went from there.”
Over the next three seasons, Dandrow never averaged less than 16 points and 10 rebounds, turning in consistent, dominating performances.
In one game, a 66-60 victory over Oswego on Feb. 14, 1989, the 6-foot center scored 30 points, pulled down 30 rebounds and tallied five blocks and four steals. In one night, Dandrow had set the school record for both points and rebounds in one game.
Although it was a once-in-a-lifetime performance, Dandrow said she doesn’t
remember much about the 30-30 game. What she does recall is being
extremely satisfied with her student-athlete experience at Potsdam, which culminated with her receiving the Maxcy Molnar award as a senior.
“My high school was very small, so I liked the small population and small class sizes at Potsdam,” Dandrow said. “I knew everyone in my classes and had good relationships with my coach and advisor. I remember the home-like, friendly atmosphere, and all the support I had from everyone.”
Dandrow, 42, has now been teaching at Edwards-Knox Central School for 15 years. She is currently a sixth grade math and science teacher.
According to LaPoint, who is currently retired, Dandrow has a fine reputation among her peers as a leader in both the school and the community.
“Karen is an outstanding citizen up here,” LaPoint said. “She is a well-respected teacher who has done a lot with the kids in the community. My wife, who is also a teacher, said Karen does an excellent job.”
Dandrow, who has helped coach in soccer, volleyball and basketball, has also found time to raise a family with her husband, Eric, who is a Potsdam graduate and alumnus of the men’s hockey team. The couple has a daughter, Kamrie (17 years old), and son, Kaden (14).
Dandrow believes her time as a student-athlete helps her do what she does today, especially in education.
“Sports gave me goals, and I tried to reach the goals I wanted to achieve,” Dandrow said. “I try to instill that in my students. If they work hard and do their best, they will perform.”
After earning her bachelor’s in psychology and elementary education, Dandrow returned to SUNY Potsdam and received her master’s in special education in 1994.