CALEDONIA, Mich. -- After being moved up for Districts as a freshman, Caledonia guard Koby VanderWoude was ready for his sophomore season with the varsity team, but it almost never happened. While playing in an AAU tournament over the summer, VanderWoude drove hard to the rim, landing awkwardly on his back, breaking his neck.
"I knew something was wrong right away because I felt it snap," VanderWoude stated.
Meanwhile, Koby's father Kevin was recording the game while his mother, Lindsey, was in the stands. When Koby hit the floor, it looked like another minor basketball fall.
"I've seen him fall a couple of times, and he was moving, so it didn't seem like it was that big of a deal," Kevin said.
VanderWoude was placed in a neck brace for two months, and doctors had hoped it would help heal the neck naturally, but it didn't.
"It was really hard, because you walk in public and people are always looking at you weird and funny, because you look way different from everyone else," Koby said.
"Wearing the neck brace didn't help at all," Kevin VanderWoude said. "At that point, we knew we were in trouble, that we had to have the surgery for sure."
Koby would undergo spine fusion surgery in October, but Caledonia head coach Phil Visser helped him get through it.
"I remember something that coach Visser always said," Koby stated. "He says, 'Never too high, never too low.' So I always tried to stay grounded and keep my head up.'"
VanderWoude was recently cleared to practice after Christmas and only had four days on the court with his team before playing in Friday's game against East Kentwood. In fact, VanderWoude would sink a tough shot to send the game to a third overtime.
"It was big," Koby said. "You dream of hitting shots that tie the game and win the game for the team."
"We went into the game thinking maybe he'd play a few minutes to get some stamina back," his father Kevin stated. "We figured it'd take him some time; then he just stayed out there, and it was amazing to see."
The Fighting Scots sophomore has gone from a serious surgery just three months ago to having an immediate impact on the court once again.
"I took basketball for granted for most of my life," Koby said. "Not being able to play it was really tough, so you learn what you can be thankful for."
The Fighting Scots boys team will take on Hudsonville at home on January 8.