Sheboygan Lutheran basketball player shines on, off court

SHEBOYGAN -- It's not often that a native son who's one of the best basketball players in the state and in the country, decides to stay home for college, but Sheboygan Lutheran High School's Sam Dekker is an exception.

At Sheboygan Lutheran High School, students, teachers and administrators wear several hats. At 6'8", senior Sam Dekker is one of the biggest men on campus - literally and figuratively. Yet during study hall period, he answers the school phone. "When you talk to him in the hallways, you feel comfortable talking to him, and he's very pleasant and greets you in the morning, so that's a lot of credit to his parents and his upbringing," Sheboygan Lutheran Principal Al Holzheimer said.

As Sheboygan Lutheran's principal, Holzheimer appreciates that. As the school's athletic director, he's thankful for something else. It's on the basketball court that Dekker really stands out, to the point where when the Crusaders play, the gym is packed to the rafters, and there is a good reason.

Dekker, who averages over 30 points and 17 or 18 rebounds per game, verbally committed to the Wisconsin Badgers after his sophomore year of high school. Dekker had a growth spurt, and shot up the national charts. Dekker is a top 25 player in the country, but this Wisconsin hoops sensation is staying home. "They extended it to me two years ago now, and I still have no regrets, and I am as excited as the first day - even more excited. Every day, hearing more about them, and talking to them and seeing them play just gets me more amped up to be out there and wear red adn white," Dekker said.

That should excite Badgers fans, because if you watch Dekker run up and down the floor, you know he's special, but what separates Dekker from other talented players is his drive to succeed and prove the doubting Thomas' wrong. "Freshman and sophomore year I wasn't that respected, and I just felt like I was doing a lot of work and not getting much out of it, and that drive just stuck with me," Dekker said.

Dekker's breathing rarified air, but even with all the accomplishments and accolades, he remains grounded. "He's had such an impact on so many people here. He has touched so many people by the way he's handled his success," Sheboygan Lutheran High School Guidance Counselor Myrna Lustosky said. "He's one of these kids that is empathetic of others' feelings, so he doesn't ever want to be above anything. He has watched other kids that maybe have attitudes, and he tries to stay away from that and just stay grounded," Sam's mom Carol Dekker said. "It's from growing up around a great family, and having their support around me, and always teaching me to be humble, and your faith comes first, and then your family, your education, and then basketball," Dekker said.

Dekker's family also includes his father, Todd, who happens to be Dekker's coach! "It gets a little difficult at times, but I enjoy it a great deal, and it is a fine line that you've got to walk. I'll be worrying about my team and sometimes I don't really get to enjoy Sam and his talents as much because I'm focused on my team. If he has a monster dunk or a nice shot, I am moving on to the next play," Todd Dekker said.

Like any young man with a gift and passion for the game, Dekker wants to play in the NBA someday, but he shows maturity beyond his 17 years when he says: "You just always have to realize that basketball is a hobby, and it's a game. It's not you're whole life. There's much more important things," Dekker said.