Photos by CatchMark
MUSKEGON — Being a multi-sport athlete is all that Matt Danicek has ever known. The Daniceks always played and watched football, basketball and baseball.
Now the Oakridge senior standout for all seasons is being recognized for his versatility.
Danicek was selected the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame’s 2023 male Scholar-Athlete Award winner by a subcommittee.
Danicek will be honored during the annual induction ceremony and banquet Saturday, June 10, at the VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center, 460 W. Western Ave., in downtown Muskegon. Social hour is at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m. and the Hall of Fame induction program around 7 p.m. Tickets cost $50 per person and may be purchased HERE.
Reeths-Puffer senior Sophia Hekkema, another well-rounded and terrific three-sport student-athlete, was chosen as the female recipient of the Hall of Fame’s Scholar-Athlete Award.
“It just feels, like, proud — a good accomplishment to get,” Danicek said in an interview with CatchMark SportsNet.
“Me and my brother (Jacob Danicek), my family, just grew up watching those sports, playing around, and you just fall into it and love it. It’s just fun to me to get all three sports in because not many people do that. It’s just a good opportunity that I like.”
Football is No. 1 for Matt Danicek, who starred as a quarterback and all-state defensive back for Oakridge, but he’s also a difference-maker for the Eagles in basketball and baseball.
Danicek, who carried a 3.683 GPA, played four years of all three sports. He earned All-West Michigan Conference honorable mention accolades in basketball. He’s an academic all-conference scholar-athlete, who earned 10 varsity letters.
Scholastically, he is a Magna Cord recipient and member of National Honor Society and Honor Roll. Other extracurricular activities include volunteering to work youth basketball camp as well as a volunteer for gymnastics, 5k and recycling activities.
Danicek plans to attend Muskegon Community College to pursue his associates degree. The son of Nate and Kim Danicek is not quite sure what he’ll study, but he’s considering business.
Danicek joins a list of other Oakridge student-athletes who have received the MASHF award: Alex Shoop (2018), Jamie Potts (2011) and Bud Giddings (2004) on the male side; Sophia Wiard (2019) and Morgan Giddings (2014) on the female side.
Even though he’s stayed extremely busy playing three sports, Matt Danicek understands the importance of being a well-rounded individual.
“It’s always good to get your work done in the classroom because you never know what your future’s going to be and that’s always a plus having that on the side,” he said.
Danicek plays shortstop, pitches and bats leadoff for Oakridge’s baseball team, which on Tuesday earned a share of the West Michigan Conference Lakes Division title with a split at Montague.
Oakridge baseball coach Brandon Barry considers Danicek one of the better athletes in the West Michigan Conference regardless of which sport he’s playing at the moment.
“Matt Danicek’s name comes up a lot for how much teachers respect him and love him and how good he is in the classroom. As good of an athlete he is, he’s a better person,” Barry said. “I’m really happy he got that award. It’s pretty cool that he got it. Well deserved.
“I think it’s going to be a feather in his cap and it’s going to show the character of the kid. Offensively (in baseball), he has not been rewarded this year and now that’s falling into place. … I can’t say enough about him. He’s just a battler as well.”
Even though Danicek really enjoys playing baseball and basketball, his true passion is football.
The last two years, he has started at QB and defensive back for Oakridge teams that have gone a combined 19-5 with two Division 5 district titles and a share of the West Michigan Conference championship in 2021.
“It’s just, it’s way different,” Danicek said about what makes football special to him. “Not saying in basketball and baseball, not everybody’s in, but football is just, like, we’re all going to war together and we’re just like battling for each other. It’s way different.”
Each year, the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame asks each Muskegon-area high school to nominate one senior male student-athlete and one senior female student-athlete for the Scholar-Athlete Award. A Hall of Fame subcommittee narrows the pool of nominations down to a top five for males and females, then it chooses a winner on each side.
Other top-five finalists on the male side included Ravenna’s Hunter Hogan, Whitehall’s Shane Cook, Muskegon’s Jordan Briggs and Muskegon Catholic Central’s Sam Kartes.
On the female side, top-five finalists also included North Muskegon’s Natalie Pannucci, Ravenna’s Emma Gillard, Montague’s Emma Peterson and Kent City’s Lexie Bowers.
When you take a look at Hekkema’s credentials, you’ll see why Hekkema was the pick to win the award on the female side. She is a three-sport standout, who is all-state in basketball and soccer but also excels in volleyball. She carried a 3.8 GPA and plans to attend Michigan State University, where she’s looking to study psychology.
“It’s awesome. I feel like a lot of people do recognize me as a hard worker, especially in my school, but it’s kind of refreshing to know that other people even outside my direct community recognize that, too, because I do work so hard. It’s always a good feeling when you get rewarded for the work you put in,” Hekkema said in an interview with MLive about being selected for the award.
Hekkema has gone back and forth between soccer and basketball as her favorite sport, but she said she’s fallen in love with soccer in the last couple years.
She helped Reeths-Puffer’s soccer team pick up a 5-0 victory over Fremont in a Division 2 first-round district game Wednesday. The Rockets will face Ludington in the district semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday (May 30) at Fruitport.
“People think that I’m so busy all the time and I don’t have time outside of school and sports, but sports have really helped me maintain a schedule and be goal-oriented,” Hekkema said. “I can look at my day and think about my classes, then practice, and then when I get home from practice, I have this set amount of time to do homework.
“I’ve always found that having a schedule is super helpful and has allowed me to stay on all my tasks.”
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