Brent Dunkelberger was meant to be a basketball player. His dad went to Northwestern for two years and played on the basketball team, and Dunkelberger said that his dad turned on a basketball game as soon as he brought him home from the hospital after he was born.
“He got me a little hoop before I was even one,” said Dunkelberger. “He was so excited that he had a boy that he just taught me to play. I started dribbling when I was two.”
Dunkelberger’s family moved around a lot when he was in school, but he always found a niche on the basketball team.
“It was always tough getting to know people,” he recalled. “I was kind of shy growing up, but basketball really helped. I made friends a lot faster than I would have because I got to know the team right when I moved to the new towns.”
Dunkelberger had been sitting the bench until his junior year when he moved to Waconia, Minn., the school he graduated high school from. “I practiced a lot over the summer and grew two inches between my sophomore and junior year,” he said.
Despite the connection to NW through his dad, Dunkelberger didn’t make the decision to sign with the Raiders until after his senior year in basketball.
“I got tons of letters from Coach Korver,” he said. “I could tell he wanted me to come play. I always kind of thought I would go here. I decided I liked the town; it’s a really homey community and Coach Korver was always sending me nice notes and letters.”
Dunkelberger also followed in his dad’s footsteps by coming in as a business major but decided that path wasn’t right for him.
He explained, “My mom is a paraprofessional and I worked at a daycare over the summer. I really loved working with the kids. It was a great experience, and it made me think, maybe I should be working with kids for the rest of my life!”
Dunkelberger decided to switch to an education major with a middle school and coaching endorsement and said, “I would like to teach anywhere from third to eighth grade. Possibly younger.”
This year, Dunkelberger faces more challenges as he balances being a husband along with being a student and an athlete. He married Jenelle Kleinhesselink, a fellow NW student, this summer.
“Coach always told us that everything you do in basketball, you’re going to see those situations in life,” he said. “Teamwork will directly relate to how you work with other people. You’ve got to work hard for each other. Everything you do now will relate to future habits.”
Dunkelberger expressed a lot of appreciation for the time and effort the coaches invest in their players.
“The coaches have been great,” he said. “Not only do they want to talk to us about basketball, but they are always asking about our lives, and if there’s ever a problem we can always go and talk to them. They want to know more than just how we’re doing in basketball.”
He also said he was very grateful for his teammates. “I have really loved playing with these guys,” he said. “They work so hard. Over the years I’ve changed because I used to be incredibly shy and wouldn’t talk to people. Now these guys are like a family.”
Plans after graduation are up in the air for the Dunkelbergers. Jenelle might attend medical or graduate school or they might move to the Des Moines area.