Michigan State Athlete: Bible Is Life’s Foundation

College basketball player says his parents taught him essence of faith — making him a winner always

by Leah Jessen | Updated 20 Mar 2017 at 12:20 PM

As March Madness enters its first full week — tournament games began last Thursday — basketball fans around the country have their eyes trained on the TV. Yet some players have long had their eyes turned toward God.

Matt Van Dyk and Michigan State University suffered a hugely disappointing loss Sunday evening in the second round of the 2017 NCAA tournament. But Van Dyk’s faith is firm. 

Van Dyk moves the ball forward for the Spartans.

“My parents have built their life on their faith,” Van Dyk, a senior forward on the MSU team, told the Michigan sports news site Spartan Nation before the tournament kicked off. “They have been such great examples to our family of what their personal walk with God means that it is something that I wanted.”

Van Dyk said the Bible is a foundation for his life: “The Bible tells us that you can gain the whole world and lose your soul.” It’s why he also said, before the tournament began: “I know who I am and what I can and can’t do, and I will do everything I can to help this team, my teammates, and my coaches reach their goals and dreams.”

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The MSU team, with a 19-14 record this year and seeded No. 9 in their division, landed a first-round birth in the tournament. The team won decisively, 78-58, on Friday night against Miami in Oklahoma at the BOK Center.

The Kansas Jayhawks then beat MSU by a score of 90-70 Sunday night — knocking the Michigan team out of the tournament.

Nevertheless, so strong is Van Dyk's faith that on his Twitter page, he lists "1 Corinthians 10:31" in his bio. The Bible verse states: "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

Van Dyk comes from a Christian home and a family that values church and faith. The basketball player told Spartan Nation his parents are his role models.

"It has been huge in my life to not just have them take me to church or talk about faith, but my parents have lived it in everything that they do," Van Dyk said. "They never set out to get rich or to please everybody. My parents' goal in life is to live for the Lord and to build His kingdom."

Van Dyk grew up on a farm in small town called Imlay City. His family's farm is one of the largest lettuce farms east of the Mississippi River, and he learned the value of hard work from an early age.

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"I didn't live the normal American childhood," Van Dyk told Matt Bontorin of the Michigan State University Athletic Communications Department. "When my friends were out in the summer having fun, I couldn't be there because I had to be up at 6 a.m. every morning."

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At MSU, he's been working on a degree in agricultural business management and plans to return to the family farm after graduation, Bontorin wrote of Van Dyk.

"There has only ever been one other guy to go to a major Division I college program from my home town," Van Dyk said.

Before transferring to Michigan State, Van Dyk attended Hope College for one semester — Hope is a private school in Holland, Michigan — and then St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Michigan. In 2014, he walked onto the Big 10 basketball team in East Lansing.

Within three years, he went from a point guard at a junior college to a starting forward in the Big 10, as the Detroit Free Press reported last month. "He started showing up for open practices [at MSU] after spending mornings working on his family's lettuce farm in Imlay City," the Detroit Free Press noted. "That persistence eventually earned Van Dyk a walk-on spot for the 2014-15 season."

This accomplished athlete is humble as well. "I'm not anywhere near the most talented or the strongest or the fastest, but I have heart. I can give 110 percent and am consistent" — as his faith certainly seems to be as well.

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