The Freaky-Geeky Five

GVL / Brady McAtamney

GVL / Brady McAtamney

Brady McAtamney

As practice is wrapping up for the Grand Valley State women’s basketball team on Wednesday, Feb. 20, associate head coach Phil Sayers breaks the final huddle and sends his players off to practice their free throw shooting for a few minutes – the usual ending routine for the Lakers. They have finished preparing for a conference matchup with the Northern Michigan Wildcats – a game they would go on to win by double digits for their 24th win in 26 games. 

The group has split up across six different nets, but two groups stand out among the rest. In front of me shoot a trio of junior roommates: guard Jenn DeBoer, forward Maddie Dailey and center Cassidy Boensch. To my right are a pair of guard who also happen to live together in junior Victoria Hedemark and senior Natalie Koenig. Both nets house a “swish” every few seconds as shots drop with regularity. 

They finish shooting and I need to quickly catch them before they enter the optional but always exercised shoot around. 

Hedemark and Koenig make their way over before DeBoer, Dailey and, eventually, Boensch. We exchange greetings and the women take a few swigs of water and wipe off some sweat before answering a few questions about themselves — one of the best five-person sets in the NCAA. 

Jenn DeBoer

A five-foot-seven-inch guard from Byron Center, Mich., DeBoer committed to GVSU as part of one of the largest recruiting classes in recent program history. She is the point guard that every team aspires to have running their floor, as she often controls the pace, finds her teammates, scores and rarely turns the ball over.

“Jenn’s just ‘point guard.’ She’s just Jenn. One of a kind,” Hedemark said. “She brings a certain something to the team that we would struggle without and off the court (has) a fun personality and also knows what to say to you on the court to get you playing your best.”

Her career started as a backup before jumping immediately to the starting spot in her sophomore year, during which she averaged 12.3 points, three assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. Her shooting jumped from 30 percent from three-point range on 50 attempts to 36.1 percent on 180 shots and is now on pace to mirror that stat at 35.2 percent this season. 

She is averaging 14.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game through 26 contests in 2018-19.

Natalie Koenig

Koenig is a special case on this Laker squad. She’s the only transfer, the only true senior and the only player with a year-round tan.

“Natalie is someone who’s kind of (quieter), like go-with-the-flow kind of thing, but you know she’s got your back and is going to be there for you,” DeBoer said. “On the court she’s so expressive, she has all these emotions so it’s really cool to see that come out.”

The five-foot-seven-inch guard from Wauseon, Ohio made her way to Allendale from Ursuline where she was a scoring machine, averaging 13.7 points per game during her sophomore year. After deciding that she needed a change of scenery, she fell in love with GVSU and knew where her next home would be.

Her scoring fell slightly in 2017-18 but led the team in assists and was second in steals while starting every game and her defensive presence has become vital to the Lakers’ current success while still being able to fill up the bucket, averaging eight points per game.

Victoria Hedemark

After committing to GVSU during her senior year at Dansville High School, Hedemark redshirted her freshman year and averaged 0.2 points per game in 2016-17 and 3.8 the next season while not starting a single game across either campaign. 

This year has been different. “V” has started every game, averaging 7.5 points per game while knocking down 36.8 percent of her outside looks. Her main contributions have come through her ferocious, energetic and contagious defense, as the junior averages the third most steals per game in the entire GLIAC at 2.3 per game.  

“V’s story is one of the most… this is going to be deep, the most inspiring,” Dailey said. “She walked on and didn’t play and now she’s playing 30 minutes a game. Hard-working, and coach Sayers said it perfectly. What is she? She’s our pulse. And she’s really nice. And really funny.”

In fact, when asked who was the most likely to do something they’ve already been yelled at, Hedemark subtly
yet confidently pointed at herself. 

“Usually what V gets yelled at for is for over-helping which just shows that she is like, the most helpful person ever,” Boensch said. “She’s just all over the court and sometimes (coach) is like ‘don’t help’ but V’s like, it’s just who she is.”

Maddie Dailey

While part of the same class as DeBoer, Hedemark and Boensch, the six-foot forward committed later in the recruited process out of Hastings, Mich. and came into Allendale knowing full-well what to expect. Her role through the first two seasons, while limited, was crucial. She started a game as a freshman, becoming the first of this season’s starters to start a game and was on the floor at tip-off for all 33 games last season, scoring 6.8 points per game with 3.3 rebounds and a 35.7 percent clip from three. 

This season, her scoring output has jumped to 10.1 points per game – third highest on the team – and has established herself as the do-it-all player on a team flush with versatility, but one of the most noticeable characteristics is that she is always equipped with a smile. 

“Maddie is the quirkiest person I know in the best way,” Boensch said. “She can always put a smile on my face in the best way. No matter what, I’m laughing at her jokes. She’s also one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met and that’s something I really admire.”

As a leader, Dailey is consistently locked in and focused on one goal the team has and won’t let anybody forget it. 

“Everybody wants to win championships… We all know what we want so we’re all pursuing the same thing and when you work together to go toward the same thing, we know what our role is and accept it and do it.”

Cassidy Boensch

Last but surely not least comes the most from the post: a Division II Player of the Year candidate in six-foot-four-inch Cassidy Boensch. After hardly playing her freshman and sophomore seasons out of Au Gres, Mich., the center was thrust into the starting lineup late last season due to injuries from higher up in the depth chart and immediately dominated, eventually leading the team in points, rebounds and blocks at 13.1, 7.1 and 1.8 per game despite make only nine starts.

She has built on her breakout with an every bigger one, leading both the Lakers and the GLIAC in points, rebounds and blocks with an absurd line of 20.1, 12.3 and 3.3 per game, highlighted by a 38 point, 23 rebound performance at Saginaw Valley State and an 11 points, 14 rebound and 10 block triple-double against Wayne State.

Ask her about her success, though, and she will immediately defer any and all credit to her teammates. 

“She’s really smart on the floor and off,” Koenig said. “One of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She has a super big heart and she’s fun (to be with).”

Boensch has plenty to be grateful for, as she is surrounded by four players who can knock down a triple or find an open look at any time in case she is covered… But she never truly is. 

The “Freaky-Geeky Five”

This group is as equally entertaining to watch in real life as they are on the court, and their debates about who’s the funniest, what the best road trip snacks are and what their unit’s nickname should be only validate it.

“The Funky Five,” DeBoer said. 

“The Spice Girls!” Dailey pitched. This idea was a popular one until they realized they could only name two and that there were actually only four Spice Girls.  

“The Jackson Five,” Dailey said, keeping on brand with past music groups. That one didn’t last long, so they continued to throw out prospective names, among which were One Direction, Williams Five, Freaky Five and The Freaks.

“We’re the Freak Geeks because we have the good GPA!” Hedemark said. “We’re the Freaky Geeky Five.” 

And so they were.

The group of girls known to love Mott’s fruit snacks but also chicken and broccoli; the one who rallies around their shared love for deadpan yet goofy humor; the five who talk endlessly about their futures during long bus rides and the ones who play some of the best basketball that Allendale has ever seen are going by The Freaky-Geeky Five — for now. 

Soon, they might be recognized as one of the most productive starting lineups to ever walk the floor at Fieldhouse Arena. After that, they could be known as GLIAC champions.

After that, not even the sky seems to be the limit for this class of superstars.