Lincoln’s Hale named PVL MVP

Star forward leaning toward playing college ball at Chico State
By: Russ Edmondson The News Messenger
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Lincoln High boys basketball star Keenan Hale has been named MVP of the Pioneer Valley League. The senior forward, 6-foot-4, helped the Zebras (22-6 overall) reach the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division III playoffs for the second year in a row. Both seasons ended with a loss at eventual section champion Sacramento. Hale led the team in points (20.2 per game), rebounds (8.0), steals (1.6) and assists (1.6) this season. “I’ve worked hard ever since I was a freshman,” Hale said. “It’s nice to get the MVP but I’m always a team player too and I help the team win as much as possible.” Hale’s stats actually went down from last year when he averaged 22.4 points and 11.5 rebounds. “I would say it was pretty tough,” Hale said. “Everyone locked in on me. I had less scoring and rebounding this year . . .but I was passing more to everyone else.” Lincoln head coach Ben Palafox, who just completed his first season as Hale’s coach but has followed him for several years while teaching at Lincoln High, said his star certainly had his best season. “He had the dynamics change a bit this year . . . We ran some sets and still focused on getting him and our key guys the ball but the impact on what (Hale’s) numbers did were more dramatic this year,” Palafox said. “Last year he had (scoring) games in the 30s and 40s, but every point mattered this year. (Lots of Hale’s points were) on impact possessions. Some of (Hale’s points) last year were in blowouts or when the game was already over.” Hale impressed Palafox with his all-around game. “His effort on both sides of the court absolutely improved. Keenan (defensively) is going to try to take you away every time,” Palafox said. “And he led us in assists and understood (to pass the ball) when he had two or three guys on him.” Hale is proud of what he and his teammates accomplished in basketball over the last four years. He played on the varsity team for three years. “At first we weren’t really known as much of a basketball school but now we might actually have a little respect from people,” Hale said. “We can compete, we competed against Foothill (in the first round of the playoffs this year) and won and we competed against Sacramento (in this year’s second round) too. We showed people that we can play.” Hale says the improvement from the beginning of the season to the end is what stood out the most from his senior season. “I think (Hale) has left a legacy . . . the big thing is how much time he put in off the court in the weight room and (doing) plyometrics and constant workouts and shooting the ball,” Palafox said. “Nobody sees that. He has a lot of natural ability but you don’t get to be the player he is without putting in that time. If the gym door is open he will roll the balls in and start shooting on his own. And he has made tremendous strides in responsibility and in the classroom.” Hale has been offered a basketball scholarship by Chico State and he says he is also considering playing college basketball for San Francisco State and Cal Poly. The latter two schools have not offered Hale a scholarship. “I’m leaning toward Chico right now,” said Hale, before talking about what he needs to improve on. “I’m probably going to work on my shooting and ball handling, those are probably the big things.” Hale is not sure where he will be playing basketball this summer. “It depends on which school I sign with,” Hale said. “If they will let me play then I will play AAU and if they don’t than I’ll just start working out with (his college team).” Palafox talked about Hale playing in college. “The biggest step at any level is the speed of the game always takes some time to make that change,” Palafox said. “His ability to score is undeniable and he can get to the rim at will . . . (however to earn minutes in college he can improve on) getting on the boards and being able to handle players in the open court defensively. “What is nice about the next level is that you get plenty of time to work on that. And you get better or you don’t play.” Hale had three teammates honored by the PVL as well. Seniors Jacob Courage and Steven Bobyk were two of the 10 players named to the first team while senior Dusty Foster was one of 10 on the second team. Courage, who had his minutes limited because of knee problems, averaged 12.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Bobyk collected 8.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals while Foster added 7.4 points per game. “Four players from one team (honored by the league) and I don’t think that has ever happened (at Lincoln),” Palafox said.