TOPEKA — Despite being a basketball player and spending a lot of time in the air, Westview High School senior Elijah Hales had his feet planted firmly on the ground when it came to making a college selection.
Academics were a high priority when it came to choosing a school to continue his studies and his basketball career after high school.
Hales, who finished his prep days as the fifth-leading scorer in Westview history with 1,521 points and ranked fifth in the senior class of 110 students with a 4.09 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale, announced his intentions Saturday to attend DePauw University in Greencastle.
“Academics were probably the biggest factor. I really wanted to attend a liberal arts college and study economics,” he said. “Economics is something I have always been interested in. I’m thinking about a career as an investment banker or possibly going to law school. Economics should be a good start on either one.”
Hales’ high school coach Rob Yoder likes the choice.
“The academic side of things was very important to Elijah,” Yoder said. “DePauw is a good fit, because it gives him the chance to pursue his career goals and the opportunity to play basketball. I’m very happy for him.”
According to Hales, he received offers from Goshen College and Huntington University (NAIA Division I schools) and a handful of other NCAA Division III programs in addition to DePauw.
There are no athletic scholarships in NCAA D-III sports.
“I’m getting enough academic aid that it will cost me around $10,000 per year instead of the normal $40,000,” he shared.
The DePauw Tigers finished with a 17-10 overall record, 10-8 in the North Coast Athletic Conference in the 2018-19 season.
“Other than going to a couple of games I am not real familiar with the basketball at that level, but from talking with the coaches they feel I can contribute right away,” Hales said.
Bill Fenton has been the men’s basketball coach at DePauw for the past 27 seasons, compiling a record of 433-269. He has been a head coach for a total of 35 season, going 550-338.
Fenton is a 1979 graduate of Northwestern University, where he was a three-time letterwinner in men’s basketball.
Yoder also feels Hales can be a contributor right away for the Tigers.
“One of the factors he has going for him is he is not only a point guard, but a point guard that can score,” Yoder said. He is so versatile as well as being big and strong. He has the ability to score inside or outside. On defense, he can guard a lot of 1’s as well as 2’s, 3’s and 4’s and in the right situation even a 5.
“DePauw might have players that can score but are not as good on defense or players that can defend but struggle more on offense. When you have a player coming in as versatile on both ends of the floor as Elijah is chances are better he could come in and play right away.”
The only player on the current Tiger roster that is local is Plymouth’s Nick Felke, who will be a junior next season at DePauw.
“A lot of the players are not from around here, but I have seen a lot of them in AAU ball,” Hales said. “AAU ball has really gotten me ready to play at the next level. I have played against some of the best players in the state.”
Among the names Hales mentioned were Dre Davis of Lawrence Central, Trayce Jackson-Davis of Center Grove and Armann Franklin of Indianapolis Cathedral.
“DePauw first saw me at a camp and then starting coming to my AAU games and recruiting me,” Hales said. “The recruiting process was fun. It’s something not a lot of people get to experience.”
At Westview, Hales was a key ingredient for the Warriors over the last four seasons, leading the program to an 83-27 record (35-9 in the Northeast Corner Conference) winning three sectional titles and a regional crown.
He tossed in 243 points as a freshman when Westview was 13-12 (5-6 in the NECC), 385 as a sophomore for a 17-7 (9-2) squad, 449 as a junior for a 28-2 (10-1) team and 444 this past season for a 25-6 (11-0) group.
Elijah is the son of Ross and Candace Hales. Ross was a football and basketball standout at Elkhart Memorial High School. He went on to play football for Indiana University and even walked on the men’s basketball team one season for legendary coach Bob Knight.
Elijah’s older sister, Grace Hales, will be a senior on the Valparaiso University women’s basketball squad for the 2019-20 season.
Greg Keim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 326. Follow Greg on Twitter @gkeim_TGN