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The Duke of Randolph: From Kenya to Wisconsin

By Emily Kumlien, ekumlien@wisctv.com
Published On: Feb 06 2014 04:58:40 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 06 2014 10:34:03 PM CST

Randolph boys basketball is one of the most storied basketball programs in the state. It's no surprise they have a very talented junior point guard.

Randolph, WIS. -

Randolph boys basketball is one of the most storied basketball programs in the state. It's no surprise they have a very talented junior point guard.

But that is only part of the story.

You don't have to be a basketball expert to notice Duke Vander Galien's quick first step on the basketball court.

The junior point guard helped the Rockets lock its 10th state championship last year.

"Most of the courts we played on are small but that one [the Kohl Center] was huge. It helped me because I liked to run a lot," Vander Galien said.

The 10 state titles are a state record. Also remarkable is Vander Galien's story off the court.

"It's been an incredible journey that I would not change for the world," said Kelly Vander Galien, Duke's mom.

The journey began in 2002. For the first time in nearly 30 years the parents of four had a quiet home. It was then that the oldest son urged the empty nesters to consider a request.

"We took 30 days and we prayed about it," Kelly said.

They decided adoption was the right thing to do and connected with a Kenyan orphanage through their son's church camp in January 2003.

Six mothers later after spending weeks in Kenya, facing riots and 13 court dates, 9-year-old Thomas and 7-year-old Duke came to Wisconsin.

"When we were there-there was just a lot of turmoil going on in the country so it was a little bit scary at times. They made us jump through a ton of hoops," said Kelly.

"I had never seen white people before it was interesting and I was kinda happy to see different races of people," said Duke.

Duke's village did not have running water or electricity. Adjusting to life was difficult. The language, the food, the water were different in Randolph.

"The winter, wasn't really feeling it, it was cold, I didn't like that," said Duke.

"The first winter we went out and I showed him how to make snow angels the first winter. He flopped then stood up and when right back into the house," said Kelly.

Slowly but surely Duke and his brother learned English and sports helped ease the transition.

"We had no idea if they could play sports when we adopted them, they were tiny little kids because they were good at athletics they community accepted them a lot more and Randolph has been incredible," said Kelly.

But the challenges did not stop in 2006 Kelly's husband, Wendall, died from a rare form of cancer.

"We talked about him a lot. We remember him a lot. The boys had a very special relationship with him. They did have a chance to have another dad so that was a huge blessing for them," said Kelly.

"He would take us on a lot of fishing and hunting trips and my brother liked everything like that. It was still fun because we just got to hang out with them," said Duke

With the memory of their father, the bond between the boys and Kelly has only grown stronger.

"They have taught me so much about accepting other people and just just loving unconditionally,," said Kelly.

"She's amazing, she can be a little loud at basketball games but that's all right, I am glad to have her in my life," said Duke.

Overcoming adversity as a family on and off the court.

"To see where they came from and to know where they came from and to see them excel has been a huge blessing," said Kelly.

Duke is also the running back on the football team but would like to play college basketball. His favorite college basketball team fittingly is Duke.

Duke's brother Thomas is 20 years old. He graduated from high school and played a year of college football at a small school.

Now, he is focusing on continuing to learn English because remember he did not start any schooling he until was about 9 years old. He continues to make great strides.

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