Allegan County News & Union Enterprise Sports

Jurian Shaffer makes his return to the basketball court

Jurian Shaffer (second from left) is seen with mom Tenneil (far left), brother Jaden (second from right) and dad Josh. The family was celebrating Jurian’s return to the basketball court for the first time in two years following a sledding accident. (Photo provided)
Jurian Shaffer (left) receives a hug from teammate Scottie Durr. (Photo provided)

By Jason Wesseldyk
Sports Editor

For the second time in recent months, the Shaffer family was able to celebrate a return to the basketball court.
Jurian Shaffer, a sophomore at Otsego High School, was in the starting lineup for the Bulldogs’ JV game against Plainwell on Thursday, Feb. 16, and played one possession on each end of the court.
It marked the first time Jurian who seen action in a game since he suffered injuries in a sledding accident two years ago.
Jurian’s younger brother Jaden, a sixth grader at Otsego Middle School who was also injured in the accident, made his return to the hardwood in a game last December. That contest was also against Plainwell.
Jurian’s parents—mom Tenneil and dad Josh Shaffer—were among the many family members and friends who were in attendance to witness the moment.
“It was very gratifying to see him get back on the floor and do something he was so passionate about before his accident,” Tenneil Shaffer said. “Just to see him out there, even if for a brief moment, means so much to us. 
“There were points in time where we weren’t sure how much he would be able to handle, yet alone run on a court and play a sport with friends.”
Brian Ouellette is JV boys basketball coach at Otsego.

“It was a pretty emotional experience,” Ouellette said. “I was very happy for Jurian, of course, but to see his family and friends in the stands—people who have been with him and his brother every step of the way—was really touching. They were so excited, and I was excited for them.”
Prior to the start of the season, Jurien contacted Ouellette asking about the possibility of serving as team manager. Ouellette turned down that request.
“I told him I didn’t need a manager, I needed an assistant coach,” Ouellette said. “I wanted him to develop his knowledge of the game and his leadership qualities while he was present at the practices and games. And he’s been such a great addition to the coaching staff. 
“He is a great leader who is able to influence games even when he isn’t playing in them. He’s very smart, extremely mature, knows what our goals are and knows what we need to do to reach them.”
And while Jurien relished the opportunity to be around the game and hone his coaching skills, his biggest desire was to get back on the court as a player.
“Even before he was cleared to practice, I would catch him playing 2-on-2 on the side or after practice,” Ouellette said. “He was like a racehorse in the starting gate, just chomping at the bit. So we started to chat about what it would take to get him in a game.”
The formation of that plan involved receiving input from Jurian’s parents and his medical team.
“We wanted Jurian to be able to compete in an actual game, with no special accommodations,” Ouellette said. “We chose the date in Plainwell because there are tons of people in the Plainwell/Otsego area who know Jurian’s story. 
“As an added bonus, I knew that Plainwell introduces starters at every game. So, I emailed Plainwell’s coach, Cortney Jennings, and presented our plan to him.  He could not have been more cooperative. He said, and I agree, ‘Some things are bigger than basketball.’”
Jennings called being part of Jurian’s return “the fondest memory of my coaching career.”
“The reason I got into coaching was to impact lives and this was a wonderful opportunity for Jurian and his journey back from the terrible accident,” Jennings said. “Anything we could do to make this moment happen, we were definitely on board.
“I spoke with (Ouellette) prior to the game and discussed how special this was and how it would be a life-lasting memory for Jurian. It was a genuine response from both communities and an opportunity for everyone to rally around a kid with all the odds stacked against him and show their love and support for him.
“It was an awesome atmosphere and showed that, in that moment, we could all lose ourselves in something bigger than basketball, which was amazing to see.”
Tenneil Shaffer said the level of support Jurian—and the entire family—received at this game and throughout the past two years has been overwhelming.
“They say that it requires the three F’s—faith, family and friends—when you go through something traumatic and that explains it well,” she said. “The support from our community has been overwhelming. 
“We still cry when someone reaches out or tells us how our boys’ accident has had an impact on them.  God had a greater purpose for our family, and we hope it makes a positive impact on others.”
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Jurian spent eight days in the hospital. About six weeks later, he returned with an infection that kept him hospitalized another two weeks.
“There was a point in time we were worried he would lose his leg,” Tenneil Shaffer said.
But after spending some time in a wheelchair, Jurian progressed to a walker and then to crutches before being able to walk on his own again.
Jurian still goes to physical therapy for his injuries.
“To look back and think of everything he has been through is incredible,” Tenneil Shaffer said. “And yet he remains so strong through all of it. I am so proud of him and impressed with how well he has faced such a traumatic experience.”
And Jurian wasn’t the only member of the family to gain a new perspective through the ordeal.
“Everything that used to matter means very little now,” Tenneil Shaffer said. “Your life can change in a second and that is what we were given. When I watch all of Jurian’s friends playing sports, I sometimes wonder where Jurian would be in that mix if he had never been in the accident. 
“Yet, I remind myself daily that God had a different purpose for him. It is difficult as a parent to see your child go through something so traumatic, but to see him bounce back from it brings tears of joy to my eyes. He amazes me every day with how far he has come.”
Ouellette believes the game against Plainwell is just the beginning for Jurian’s comeback as a player … as well as his coaching career.
“This season, Jurian’s learned so much from a coaching standpoint,” Ouellette said. “When he is done playing, he will make an excellent coach if he chooses to go that route. He’s just a truly excellent young man.”

Leave a Reply