2 Sanford Health doctors keep close eye on Mike Daum

Verle Valentine and Chad Kurtenbach provide care for SDSU athletes.

Mike Daum competing at the Sanford Pentagon
Mike Daum competing at the Sanford Pentagon

Only 10 players in the history of NCAA Division I basketball have scored 3,000 total points. It’s an elite group of players spanning five decades.

Last month, a Rushmore State legend gained entry into the club: South Dakota State senior forward Mike Daum. He topped 3,000 with a meaningful basket late in a comeback victory over rival South Dakota at Frost Arena in Brookings.

A pair of Sanford Health physicians have had front seats to history. That’s because Sanford is the exclusive orthopedics and sports medicine provider for the Jackrabbits.

Verle Valentine, MD, and Chad Kurtenbach, MD, cover SDSU. They’ve been with the Jacks through the big victories, tough losses — although there haven’t been many of those in the Daum era — and the record-breaking performances.

“Mike was certainly an amazing shooter before coming to college, but there was some question about how effective he could play at the Division I level,” said Valentine, a former SDSU basketball player himself. “Every year I see changes in his game that have made him a better player. He has worked extremely hard during his time at SDSU to develop his body, his skillset and his knowledge of the game to become the All-American that he is today.”

To that point, the 6-foot-9 Daum redshirted as a true freshman — unlike most standouts in recent SDSU history. But the patience paid off quickly. He won Sixth Man and Freshman of the Year honors as a redshirt freshman and then earned Summit League tournament MVP status in helping the Jacks qualify for the NCAA tournament.

That was just the beginning.

Mike Daum: record holder, cheerleader

Daum owns the SDSU and Summit League records for points (3,026) and rebounds (1,214) in a career. He’s has been named Summit League player of the year three times. He’s a two-time honorable mention Associated Press All-American.

Most importantly, SDSU has won the last three conference tournament championships. The team is the top seed again heading into the combined men’s and women’s tourney this weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The Summit League field also includes the University of South Dakota and North Dakota State — two other Sanford-affiliated schools with successful programs.

The men’s championship game is set for 8 p.m. Tuesday and will air on ESPN2.

“Mike has never put individual accolades above the team goals,” Kurtenbach said. “He genuinely roots for and encourages his teammates, and they bring out the best in each other.”

Preventing, treating injuries

Daum has been relatively healthy throughout his collegiate career — he couldn’t have been so successful otherwise. Foot and ankle issues can be prevalent in players of his size and style, so injury prevention has been a point of emphasis for the SDSU team doctors, athletic training staff and strength and conditioning coaches.

“In order to stay injury-free, it takes a full-time commitment and a multifaceted approach,” said Kurtenbach, who is the team orthopedic surgeon. “Injury prevention strategies include a proper diet, adequate recovery time, mental preparation, flexibility and strength training. These strategies are implemented year-round and are critical for the ongoing success of any high-level team.”

That’s the way Sanford cares for athletes of all ages and abilities — not just college hoops stars.

“Having a highly functional cohesive team is key to this approach,” Valentine said. “Even with this team-based approach to athlete care, some injuries do happen. Our hope is that most of these injuries are caught early, treated quickly and rehabilitated quickly to get the athlete back to 100 percent.”

It’s more than a hope — it’s a calling and a passion. And to have that overlap with all-time excellence on the hardwood?

“It has been awesome,” Kurtenbach said.

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