EAST LANSING - From a distance, the East Lansing varsity boys basketball huddle looks pretty average. But get a little closer, and things start to sound quite unusual.
While many teams break huddles by saying its team name, the Trojans simply yell, “Caleb.”
This rallying affirmation is a tribute to senior shooting guard Caleb Hoekstra, who had his season cut short in mid-January due to a broken foot.
Hoekstra fractured his fifth metatarsal, a bone located on the outside of the foot that connects to the pinky toe. He is rehabbing every day after school, hoping for a late season return if the team makes a deep state tournament run.
“Rehab has been going well. Mostly what I do is keeping everything else besides the foot strong,” Hoekstra said. “I have also been doing mobility exercises for my foot.”
East Lansing is 21-0, and 14-0 in the league, and stands as the No. 2 ranked Class A team in the state. It’s been emotional for Hoekstra, not being able to help his team during such a successful season.
“In a way, it’s taking my life and my faith to a deeper level than it’s ever been before,” Hoekstra said. “This may be kind of crazy, but in a way it’s kind of worth it, even though it’s been so difficult, because my faith has grown so much through this experience.”
Hoekstra’s coach, Steve Finamore, said he is one of the hardest workers he has been around. Finamore described a story where Hoekstra drove to East Lansing in between AAU games in Grand Rapids, just to get a workout in.
“He’s different than a lot of people. Every single workout he gives 100%. His desire and his drive is so high and so strong,” Finamore said. “He doesn’t go rollercoaster with his work ethic.”
Hoekstra has become, according to Finamore, a “virtual assistant coach”. Hoekstra has expressed interest in coaching, and now has been able to see the game from that perspective.
“We let him talk in the locker room at halftime, before, and after the game. He’s not only sitting out, but he’s learning how to coach now,” Finamore said.
Finamore sees similarities between Hoekstra’s injury and Michigan State senior basketball player Eron Harris’s season-ending knee injury. Both Harris and Hoekstra play a similar role for their teams, relied upon to score from the perimeter.
Finamore is close to MSU basketball, and plans to get Hoekstra in contact with Harris to share their situations.
Despite the injury, Hoekstra is still part of the action. He started, and briefly played, in senior night against Okemos on Feb. 24. He had the opening tip batted to him, then traveled before being taken out, so he could participate in the Trojan tradition of kissing the logo at midcourt during their last home game.
After the game, an emotional Hoekstra struggled to put into words how much that moment meant to him.
“It was a great feeling, I haven’t really sorted through the other ones in my mind to rank it yet…obviously you know I hope I could be playing on it (senior night), but it was really cool,” Hoekstra said.
He is undecided on his future in basketball, and doesn’t know yet where he wants to attend college. Some options include playing at Hope College or Indiana Wesleyan University. Finamore believes that no matter what Hoekstra decides to do, or where he decides to play, he will be an asset.
“He looks determined… He’s going to use this setback as a comeback. He’s going to be better when he comes back, whether it’s for us at the end, or whether it’s for a college,” Finamore said.