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‘Big Wes’ and the long road to redemption

March 1, 2013

Zach Johnson / The Courier - Dukeman led the Scots in scoring and rebounding for the 2012-13 season.

It’s Senior Day at Monmouth College, and for the first time in years, the Glennie Gymnasium is rocking after the Scots witnessed a stirring comeback win over Lake Forest. At the center of the celebration is an exhausted Wes Dukeman, whose transition baskets sparked his team’s rally.

For Dukeman, it’s tough to believe that this is the end; the journey however, was much more difficult. “I was in pure panic, I felt like I was going to die.”

Prospects of returning to a normal daily life, let alone basketball are questionable after suffering a perforated ulcer. Just as Dukeman was beginning to find his niche midway through his junior season, anti-inflammatory medications designed to relieve severe foot and back pain had produced dangerous side effects, bringing Dukeman’s future into question.

Dukeman had battled serious injuries before; a broken foot forced him to sit out most of his sophomore year at Elmhurst College, prompting a transfer to Monmouth with three years of eligibility remaining. Recurring back ailments slowed his progress upon arriving at MC. As the season wore on, Dukeman could feel his body breaking down. This time there was an extra air of danger, of uncertainty.

“I noticed more fatigue in games and practices,” Dukeman said. “But I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone, because I wanted to play and I had to get through classes.”

Finally, the effects became severe enough that Dukeman decided to open up about his health.

“I called Coach Skrivseth and told him what was going on,” Dukeman said. “The fact of the matter is that he saved my life.”

At the time the ulcer was discovered, Dukeman had not yet obtained a medical redshirt, which would allow him to play one more season. Nevertheless, Dukeman emerged from the surgery doggedly determined to better himself.

“I forced myself into the gym,” Dukeman said. “It was a difficult task to get in better shape, but I almost felt physically stronger after the surgery.”

Monmouth assistant coach Steve Schweer, who worked closely with Dukeman, coaching frontcourt players, was impressed with Dukeman’s transformation.

“Coming back bigger, faster and stronger is really a testament to the type of person Wes is,” said Schweer. “He is a true example of what hard work and effort in the offseason can do for you as a player.”

After being medically cleared to resume basketball activities, Dukeman continued work with Brian Woodard, MC basketball’s Strength and Conditioning coach. Regimented dieting along with extra emphasis on flexibility and speed allowed Dukeman to more actively run the floor, providing the Scots another weapon in transition. Eventually Dukeman was granted a medical redshirt, allowing him an opportunity to end his career on his terms.

With the season looming, head coach Todd Skrivseth felt his big man was ready. “During the fall strength and conditioning session, it was evident he was in the best shape of his life and would be able to pick up where he left off before his surgery.”

Emerging from the surgery mentally and physically stronger, Dukeman relished his leadership role on a young Scots team which featured only two upperclassmen.

“Wes leads by doing things the right way, paying attention to detail and working hard to do everything he can for the betterment of the team,” Schweer said. “He set a great example for our talented young bigs.”

Dukeman’s leadership was not confined to practices. The center was a featured part of Monmouth’s offense, leading his team in scoring in seven of the season’s first ten games. Defensively Dukeman’s rebounding numbers had also skyrocketed, further proof of his physical metamorphosis.

“Wes was a guy we could go to when we needed big baskets,” Schweer said. “His inside presence both offensively and defensively allowed our perimeter players to have more opportunities as well.”

Although the Scots struggled to close in many tight games throughout the year, Dukeman found the opportunity to shine. Where in past seasons Dukeman’s health affected his consistency, the 6’10” center was a rock of dependability in 2012-13, starting all 23 games while leading his team in scoring (13.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg).

Dukeman’s numbers ranked him 11th in the Midwest Conference in scoring, fifth in rebounding and tenth in blocked shots. In fact, after a four-point effort to begin the season against Central, Dukeman scored in double-figures the final 22 games of the season, notching six double-doubles in the process.

Though Dukeman only suited up at MC for a little over two seasons, his presence within the program will certainly be missed. The senior’s influence reached well beyond the stat sheet.

“Wes does a great job of representing our program on the court, off the court, and in the classroom,” Skrivseth said. “As a coach, that is what you hope for from everyone in your program. Hopefully our underclassmen were paying attention to ‘Big Wes’.”

Kyle McEwen
Sports Editor

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