LITTLE CHUTE — Little Chute senior guard D.J. DeValk can get crowds jumping with put-back dunks, hit long-range threes and has his Mustangs poised for what’s becoming the norm for their team: a run to state. That’s impressive for anyone, especially so for DeValk considering where he was just two years ago.
“Sophomore year I was going up for a lay-up, I snapped the top of my tibia, dislocated my knee and broke both bones in my arm,” said DeValk. “Spent 8 weeks in a wheelchair, then rehabbed. Then first day of basketball practice, I partially tore my ACL.”
DeValk decided not to have surgery on his ACL, leaving him with a knee brace he still wears to practice and games. That’s one of few reminders of the injury for the guy who was named Eastern Valley Conference Co-Player of the Year.
Talking to DeValk, you wouldn’t know the severity of his injuries unless he told you. He actually recounts everything he’s gone through with a hint of a smile.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said DeValk. “It was tough at the beginning, but going through rehab I got to meet a lot of amazing people. Going through a really difficult situation, it’s kind of bettered me as a person. It’s been fun.”
If rehabbing a broken leg, two broken arms and a partially torn ACL don’t seem fun to you, DeValk says there was really no alternative in his mind, so why not be positive.
“It was tough at times, but I’ve had a pretty good attitude about it,” said DeValk. “It’s always just been: I have to be able to get back to what I love to do.”
In addition to working his way to regain lift in his legs and comfort on the court, DeValk has also worked to become more of a leader. Last year’s Mustangs senior class was deep, boasting future UW-Green Bay players Turner Botz and Kenneth Lowe. Little Chute head coach Mickey Martin said DeValk was always a quieter player with Botz, Lowe and company on the team, but he’s changed that.
“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” said Martin. “He had to take a back seat to everyone last year, as he grew into his role as a leader on this year’s team, you could see him grow. He’s a special kid.”
DeValk has interest from several Division-III colleges to play basketball next year, and says he “thinks” he is going to St. Norbert College, where he could play with his friend Dakota Oskey from Seymour. Right now, however, the goal is to ride with the Mustangs all the way to Madison for the state tournament.