By Andrew Johnson
FRUITPORT – If you didn’t know the story of Luke Anhalt before Friday night, you’d have thought he was one of the nation’s top high school basketball prospects, based on all of the attention he was getting.
From TV crews filming his warm-up and cameras catching every smile, all the attention was focused on Fruitport Calvary Christian’s newly-crowned homecoming king.
The reason for all the fuss was actually much bigger than basketball. Just 43 days ago, Anhalt dropped to the court during a team practice in full cardiac arrest.
He was revived by Fruitport Calvary head coach Jeff Zehr, who administered an AED (automated eternal defibrillator) to the 17-year-old senior.
What could have ended in tragedy turned into an inspiring story on Friday night, when Anhalt shocked everyone by returning to the court and starting for the Eagles in their homecoming game against Holland Calvary.
In the days following the incident, he thought his season, and his varsity career, were over. But new hope arose in the last few weeks, and he got the chance to return to his team, after all.
“A couple of weeks ago, we were talking about the stress test coming up, and it was mentioned as a possibility, so since then, I was like, I must, must, must come back,” Anhalt said.
He passed the stress test, got the green light from his doctors, and was ready to roll with his teammates on Friday.
“They got to see it end up as a good positive,”Anhalt said after the game. “They got to see me being back to myself again, and I think it’s really good for them.”
Before the game, players for both teams were introduced, except for Anhalt.
Then Anhalt’s father, Dr. Jeff Anhalt, delivered a message of faith to the crowd about God’s role in his son’s recovery.
After the message, a curtain behind the scorer’s table was opened, revealing a large image of Luke Anhalt with his arms spread wide, holding a basketball.
Anhalt was then introduced to a loud ovation, and the game began like any other Friday night high school basketball contest.
“It was a lot of nerves,” said Luke about his feelings before tip-off. “I was just thanking God for the opportunity. I didn’t think I’d ever get to do this again.”
Luke wore a cardiac monitor on his left shoulder around his armpit, which was bluetooth connected to his apple watch that Jeff Anhalt monitored from the scorer’s table.
When Luke came out of the game periodically, his father often came to the bench to made sure his son was feeling the way the monitor was indicating.
“I just monitored the readings,” Jeff Anhalt said. “I just went to go check on him and see how his fatigue level was, and how he was feeling.”
Nobody could blame Luke for feeling a little fatigue, after playing 26 of 32 minutes. He only returned to practice on Wednesday, after being cleared to return to the team earlier that day.
“I’m so out of shape,” said Luke after the 50-44 victory. “I’m exhausted.”
Overall, Luke played a crucial role for the Eagles, totaling 11 points, eight rebounds and one assist in the victory.
With 30 seconds left, Luke made the key play in the game, stealing a cross-court pass around mid-court and taking it all the way to the hoop for a layup, giving Fruitport Calvary a 48-43 lead.
“It couldn’t be a bigger win for our school,” Coach Zehr said after the game. “I mean, how do you script it? Given it’s homecoming and the struggles we’ve had with losing Luke, and now having him come back. You couldn’t script it any better.
“I hope the community sees the positive side of what happened with Luke, due to being prepared and believing in God.”