Vanderhorst: The ultimate fighter battles beyond the court

By Meghan Carroll- 1851 Staff

Screen Shot 2019-10-27 at 5.41.53 PM
Kevin Vanderhorst pictured in the Athletic Center where he spends countless hours practicing for the upcoming basketball season.
Photo Courtesy of Meghan Carroll.

Junior Kevin Vanderhorst was born July 20, 1997 and raised in the Dominican Republic until 2013, when he came to the U.S. with his mom, dad and little brother. He moved to Lawrence, Mass, where he attended Lawrence’s public school system. His life changed instantly. He didn’t know anyone and having to learn a new language along with the change of weather made adjusting harder. But, his passion to be on the court was always familiar.

Vanderhorst had been playing basketball and volleyball before he moved to the States. At Lawrence High School of Math, Science and Technology, he continued to do what he cher- ished. After graduating eighth in his class, he had big decisions to make regarding his future four years. He was motivated and determined to play sports, but also driven to succeed academically.

With many options from recruiters including Merrimack College, Lasell University and Mount Ida College, he decided the best place for him was Mount Ida. It offered a competitive education as well as the opportunity to play at the collegiate level. He enjoyed every second at Mount Ida while majoring in business administration. He especially valued his teams, where he established a great deal of friendships.

April 2018, Mount Ida announced it would be closing due to financial issues. “I felt lost… at first I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I called my parents. They were confused at first, they didn’t know what was going on. They thought that UMass was going to buy Ida and I would be able to go there right away but that wasn’t the deal,” Vanderhorst said.

He found himself applying to schools again. Lasell University was still on his mind. As soon as word of Mount Ida’s closing got out, Lasell’s Aaron Galletta, the men’s basketball coach, took action.

When asked about Vanderhorst’s defining qualities, Galletta said, “I think it’s his tough- ness on the court, he was just relentless when he played on the floor so when we were recruiting him that’s what I loved about him. I coached against him for a couple years and the scouting reports would just say he was a relentless rebounder, he’s going to play hard for 40 minutes, and his energy is off the charts. So when we were able to get him, it was huge for us.”

Vanderhorst applied to Lasell and communicated with both basketball and volleyball coaches. On top of being able to play, he would be able to attend school with two of his best friends from home, seniors Andy Henriquez and Janci Soto, both a part of the men’s volleyball team at Lasell. With Mount Ida closing, many of his classmates also transferred to Lasell due to its close proximity. In fall 2018, he enrolled at Lasell to major in accounting and marketing, with hopes to create a new path for himself.

Little did he know, his life would soon be flipped again. A couple weeks into his first semester, Vanderhorst began to complain of stomach pain. He was admitted to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. After many visits to the hospital and weeks of appointments, they gave him his medical prognosis: stage III cancer.

Vanderhorst was healthy, athletic and optimistic yet suddenly he found himself in a hospital room, receiving the worst news someone could. He was left confused and unsure, but he did what he had always done when things got tough, he fought.

He fought hard with help from his family, friends, teammates and coaches. “I had amazing support. They were constantly checking up on me. They all helped me with transportation to get my treatment and appointments,” said Vanderhorst.

Going to the doctor so often was draining, but Vanderhorst continued to live on campus and attend classes. “I wanted to live a regular life. If I went home, I knew I would go crazy doing nothing,” said Vanderhorst. Vanderhorst attended the majority of basketball and volleyball practices. He went to every game he could, supporting his new teammates, as they were supporting him in a difficult time.

Coach Galletta seemed to admire that most. “Tough. Resilient. What he had to go through, no 21-year-old should have to go through. He’s just a really tough kid, that takes on adversity, just a strong-character kid. You know, not a lot of people would go through what he had to go through with the positivity that he had at every turn,” Galletta said.

His best friend, Henriquez, was with him every step of the way. He took Vanderhorst to most of his appointments and treatments, as a reminder that he was not alone. When Vanderhorst was rst diagnosed, Henriquez was there. “We got close my freshman year of college and we got as close as we are now. I started introducing Kev as my brother,” said Henriquez. Although not brothers by blood, Henriquez considers Vanderhorst family and has showed it through endless support.

In spring 2019, after surgery to remove the rest of his cancer, Vanderhorst was declared cancer-free. When asked what he plans to do when he graduates he said, “I’m planning to come back to school and get my master’s degree. I want to play basketball one more year, for the year I was getting my treatments.”

Coach Galletta was not shy to show his excitement, “we’re thrilled to get him back, I just think he’s a great kid and a great basketball player. I’m looking forward to being able to coach him because I wasn’t able to coach him on the floor this year. I’m thrilled he’s able to play basketball because that means he’s healthy. So that’s the biggest thing for me.”

His dedication did not go unnoticed and now Vanderhorst is taking full strides to get the team ready for the upcoming season as a captain of the men’s basketball team. His friends, family and the Lasell community are excited to see what’s to come with his life on and off the court.

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