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When former Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker, 20, is on the floor, he listens for his father’s distinct whistle, letting him know the family is watching. This fall, the Lutheran basketball family may be able to continue that tradition in NBA arenas.
Forgoing his senior year, Dekker joins up to 10 players from Kentucky and Duke alone leaving school in a mass exodus to the big leagues. The focus of hoops has shifted to the NBA playoffs as stars like LeBron James and Derrick Rose challenge the dominance of Atlanta and Golden State. But teams sitting at home await a deep draft class, eagerly scouting men who might have the talent and integrity to manage NBA pressure.
Dekker, a lanky, 6-foot-9-inch junior, built his record years before the Badgers’ NCAA title loss to Duke. His father, Todd, coached him at Wisconsin’s Sheboygan Lutheran High School. The baby of the basketball family, Sam became a small-town legend three years ago with 40 points in the state championship, draining the game-winning buzzer beater. The contested fade-away came in handy—identical to his March 28 shot sending Wisconsin to the Final Four.
Dekker was actually 2 inches shorter then. He added stature last summer while impressing NBA stars like James and Kevin Durant during offseason camps. Sheboygan’s 230-pound household name channeled some of that confidence into 41.7 percent three-point shooting in the NCAA tournament, marred only by missing all six long balls against Duke.
“I put this one on me,” he said as he wept after the loss in the final. But that drive to improve is what Badgers coach Bo Ryan originally saw in him—and what NBA teams see as well.
Projected to go mid-first round to an average team, Dekker will watch the playoffs eying which team could use his skill set. He’s ready for the NBA, his dad says, and not just because his playing style translates well. “He’s grown into a fine Christian man,” he told WITI.
Jordan Spieth, 21, capped off an incredible month by sweeping the Masters Championship in calm fashion, tying the lowest score ever recorded in Augusta. The family hugs on the 18th green were almost perfect. “Wish Ellie was here,” brother Steven said. Spieth says his younger sister Ellie, who has autism, is part of what formed his maturity, of what keeps him humble. “Ellie certainly is the best thing that’s happened in our family,” Spieth told the Akron Beacon Journal last year. “It helps put things in perspective. …”
Commentators have crowned Spieth the next hope for golf, the face to bring younger millennials to the TV to watch one of their own. Spieth may also use the mantle to promote his sister’s cause: He already contributes through his foundation to special needs children.
Home at the park
Cincinnati Reds moms clamored for places to nurse infants. Reds COO Phillip Castellini, father of five, heeded their call. The Pampers Nursing Suite features rocking chairs, kitchenette, refrigerator, toddler space, and TVs, so no family has to be separated or miss the game. Many fields allow nursing in seats, first aid stations, or even a private room. But Cincinnati boasts perhaps the first full-service, homelike spot accessible from hundreds of seats. If newspaper columnists are any indication, public opinion in other MLB cities quickly shifted from “cool idea” to “what’s taken my team so long?” —A.B.