Dane Kuiper dealt with two injuries during preseason but that wasn’t going to stop him from enjoying his senior year. Scott Foreman/The Lobo Lair
Isabel Gonzalez
@cisabelg

Dane Kuiper’s decision to play basketball was an easy one.

“I remember my freshman year in high school I got put in a varsity football playoff game with my brother, who was a senior at the time,” he recounted. “I saw a 6’4″, 230 lbs linebacker coming for me and I dropped the ball. I was like, ‘you know what? football isn’t really for me.’ That’s when I realized it.”

Kuiper is now in his senior year of college basketball at the University of New Mexico. Although there have highs and lows, the experience has mostly been a good one for him. The 6’7″ guard/forward played two years under former Lobo head coach Craig Neal, now he plays for head coach Paul Weir. There have been times when Kuiper struggled with shooting, but today he feels more confident.

“I’m feeling really good,” he said. “I’ve fixed my shot a lot since I first got here with my backspin and getting the rotation right. All it is now is just keeping my release high and keep rotating the ball. I’m feeling pretty good about this year.”

Kuiper grew up in Alaska and said he spent his childhood playing outside with his brother, Braydon. Some of their favorite activities included playing basketball in their front yard, hunting, fishing and building tree forts. Their parents also played basketball and still live active lifestyles (including hiking the La Luz trail for their 25th anniversary).

While New Mexico might be different from Alaska, Kuiper has kept a lot of the same hobbies. When he’s not spending time with his teammates, he likes to go fishing, hiking, riding bikes with his dad and walking Sugar, the family dog. When it comes to an activity that doesn’t require as much physical effort, his go-to pastime still remains within the outdoor lifestyle theme.

“I like to carve sticks with my knives and just make cool stuff,” he said. “Handles that I can put a blade on from a knife that broke, just different stuff like that. I just like carving.”

Before the season began, Kuiper finished a tattoo on his left upper arm. This was a totem pole with different animals that he saw online and thought was cool enough to get. The tattoo also has special meaning because it includes the Denali mountain range at the top, which he said he used to look at from his home in Alaska. The entire image took seven hours to complete, done in two different sessions.

His first tattoo happened right after he graduated high school. The word “brothers” is written on the inside of his left arm, along with his and his brother’s date of births. His brother has a matching tattoo on his right arm.

While his latest tattoo was fresh, Kuiper was sitting on the bench during practice because he was dealing with a back injury. The coaching staff said it wasn’t a big deal but they were taking precautions so when the season officially started, Kuiper would be healthy and not begin his senior year sitting out. Unfortunately, Kuiper suffered a shoulder injury during the 2018 Cherry & Silver event. He had to sit out for a little bit again, but luckily this one wasn’t too serious either.

He’s had other injuries throughout his college career, but the setbacks haven’t stopped him from doing what he loves. When he graduates, he wants to continue playing.

“I wanna go play professionally overseas or in the United States. Whatever opportunities I have, I wanna do,” he said. “I don’t really know what I want to do after that. I’ve always wanted to be an Alaskan state trooper, so that could be a backup plan.”

For Kuiper, moving back to Alaska when he gets older is something that would truly make him happy. When asked what it is that he loves the most about the state, his answer fits his personality.

“The wilderness,” he said. “I grew up wild, and I’ll always be wild.”

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