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East at Heelan basketball

East High's Jack Peterson guards Heelan's Elijah Hazekamp during basketball action at Bishop Heelan High School.

SIOUX CITY – In basketball terms, being a gym rat is a good thing.

It means a player has spent countless hours in a gym honing his or her game, trying to get an extra edge on the competition.

Bishop Heelan senior Elijah Hazekamp makes no bones about the fact that he’s one of those gym rats. Sure, the 6-foot-6 forward has plenty of skills, but he’s made himself an even better player by putting in the extra time.

“I think the older I got the harder I worked and the more I wanted to be in the gym just because I was more focused in high school,” Hazekamp said. “I had a goal and just went for it with all my heart.”

It has definitely paid dividends for the Sioux City Journal Metro Athlete of the Week. Hazekamp, who broke into the starting lineup during his freshman season, has risen to second on Heelan’s all-time scoring and rebounding lists.

The 18-year-old son of Anne and Rick Hazekamp has poured in 1,399 points and yanked down 936 rebounds, second only to Brennan Cougill, who totaled 1,602 points and 1,033 rebounds.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I’m one of the hardest workers ever to come through Heelan and that’s a great thing to hear,” Hazekamp said. “Obviously I’ve been one of the top scorers and rebounders but I think the hard-working part is the best complement to hear.”

Heading into a Tuesday game against Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, Hazekamp was averaging 21.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game this season. Double-doubles, though, are pretty much his norm.

He’s charted 15 games with double figures in both scoring and rebounding this season and an astounding 51 over his career.

“He’s the type of kid that I will specifically tell the guys we’re taking tomorrow off and it’s inevitable I’ll get a text message from him that says ‘coach, can I get in the gym, can I borrow your keys, can you rebound for me, can you put me through a workout?,” Heelan Coach Andy Foster said.

“I’ll always be able to grab him and ask him how the locker room is and he’ll be able to tell me. Haze is a really selfless player and sometimes even to a fault. But we know he’s our guy. Our guys know that. We’ve had so many end of the game moments and we’ve had team discussions and I’ve asked the guys and they all say they want Haze getting the ball.”

Heelan got off to a torrid start, winning its first seven games, but has dropped nine of its last 11. That’s deceiving, however, as five of those have come on buzzer beating shots by the other team. The Crusaders have two more regular season games remaining before beginning district play.

“The good thing is all those games are close and we’re within one or two possessions of winning those,” Hazekamp said. “Our record is pretty deceiving, we could be a lot better than what we are. If we can finish with those type of games out in tournaments, we’ll be in good shape.”

Hazekamp plans to continue his basketball career at the University of North Dakota, an NCAA Division I school.

“The biggest thing at the next level is he has to be able to guard,” Foster said. “I see him playing at a three and maybe a four. Maybe a stretch four, a trail four, maybe a guy who inbounds the basketball and trails the break. He can hit a trail three, a guy if the point guard catches some heat it can be reversed back to him and he’s got the skill sets to handle the basketball under duress downhill.”

It’s indeed a great luxury for Foster to have his best player being the type of person he is.

“We’ve talked about how nice it is to at times having one of the best if not the best player on the floor,” Foster said. “We’ve had him play the center, the wing and the point this year. We’re pretty fortunate in his skill set, especially at the high school level. And, I think he’ll be able to pull from that at the next level.”

One thing is certain, Hazekamp will do plenty of extra work in the gym.

SPECIAL MENTION

Swimming

Scott Cain, South Sioux City .... The senior set the school, conference and Ralston pool record in the 50 freestyle in 21.33.

Wrestling

Sean Heeney, East ... The junior bumped up to 120 pounds at the 3A district meet and was able to qualify for the state tournament for the second straight year.

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