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Commentary: Basketball is in DeKuiper’s blood

Maria DeKuiper was 4 years old when she broke her leg.

She was playing basketball with her two older brothers inside the family’s Michigan home when she hurt herself diving for a loose ball.

She remembers the pain. But she remembers something else, too.

“It took the whole day to realize it was broken,” DeKuiper said. “I just kept playing.”

It wasn’t until a trip to a grocery store later that day that DeKuiper knew something wasn’t right.

“I said, ‘Mom,’” she said, “‘you’re going to have to carry me.’”

Over a dozen years later, DeKuiper is still playing. And still shooting.

And when Maria DeKuiper shoots, Maria DeKuiper usually scores.

On Monday, she became the second player in the rich history of Bradenton Christian’s girls basketball team to score 2,000 career points.

Sitting on 1,999, she drained a jumper from the foul line. Then she hit the ensuing foul shot for point No. 2,002.

That’s a lot of points. That’s a lot of basketball.

DeKuiper would rather focus on the latter.

“Points aren’t everything,” she said.

In the eyes of DeKuiper, basketball always was. Her brother, Brian, is 10 years her senior and works as an athletic trainer.

Growing up, he played basketball all the time, as did her other brother, Jeff.

Maria was right there with them.

The family lived on a 13-acre spread in Michigan with a large driveway, and the kids’ dad lined the pavement with a 3-point arc made of clear plastic and spray paint. He even used high school measurements.

“It was handmade,” Maria said, “but it worked.”

Consequently, her love for the sport never waned. She joined BCS’s varsity team in eighth grade, was a key cog in last year’s Class 1A final four team -- she had a game-high 24 points during a state semifinal loss to Hollywood Christian -- and now is the lone BCS girl not named Jessica Magley to score 2,000 points for her career.

Oh, and she is still shooting -- whether at BCS’s gym, G.T. Bray or a friend’s house.

“It’s pretty easy to find a hoop,” DeKuiper said.

DeKuiper is a standout volleyball player, too. But when it comes to college, she wants to shoot a ball rather than spike it. She may get that chance -- Northwestern College (Iowa), Hope College and Calvin College (Michigan) and Colorado Christian have all shown interest.

And when she gets there, she will have Brian to thank.

“I probably still would have played (without him),” Maria said. “I don’t know if I would have been as passionate about it.”

She hasn’t stopped shooting since.

John Lembo, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.

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