By CONOR NICHOLL
Alex Hutchins is well-known as Hays High’s highly successful boys’ basketball coach. Hutchins also serves as assistant football coach and high jump coach in track. He has Indian senior Jordan Dale in all three seasons.
Dale, who has quietly delivered one of the Kansas’ most impressive three-sport resumes, talked with Hutchins about college options.
He mainly played quarterback in 2020 and earned Western Athletic Conference offensive player of the year. Dale moved to wide receiver this fall and caught the longest pass in Indian history in Week 1. Defensively, Dale saw time in the secondary. He earned second team offense for HHS’ Class 5A quarterfinal team, the program’s best season since 1995.
In basketball, the 6-foot-2 Dale has played in 58 career games the last three years. As a junior, Dale earned honorable mention all-league and picked up the Off the Bench award as the top sixth man at the Colby Orange and Black tournament. Dale earned the team’s defensive player of the year honor.
He is part of a highly experienced senior class that is 42-2 in its last 44 games, the best run by any Kansas team in that stretch.
For track, Dale picked up the conference high jump title with a 6-4 mark. In the 5A regional track meet last spring, Dale cleared 6-foot-5. He finished second at state with a 6-4 clearance. Plus, Hutchins noted Dale never missed a day of summer weights. While many elite athletes play two sports, it’s arguable that no 4-6A senior boy has the total resume like Dale.
“He is such a valuable athlete to our school in all three sports,” Hutchins said.
The quiet Dale, who comes from an athletic family, has enjoyed playing all three sports.
“It’s been really fun,” Dale told SIK. “I like it a lot. It just kind of makes me feel needed, I guess. It makes me feel like I have something to do. It gives me something to do in my free time and makes me not lazy.”
Part of Hutchins’ and Dale’s conversations revolved around several questions: Which sport for college? Could he play multiple sports? And at what level? Dale had picked up an offer for Fort Hays track and field.
Dale’s recruitment with Washburn University occurred quickly. Jordan’s mom, Jessica, submitted a recruiting questionnaire, and they texted him the following day. Jordan took a visit the following week. He received an offer on Dec. 21 and committed a week later with limited fanfare.
“It was really nice,” Jordan said. “They give you 14 days to sign, so I just decided to commit, because I loved it there. Everything about it was amazing. All of the coaches are some of the nicest people I’ve met. They really make you feel at home, and just the whole campus in general just feels like a home, a place you want to be at. It’s really nice.”
Dale is part of Hays High’s remarkable senior class. Jaren Kanak signed with Oklahoma football, Dylan Dreiling with Tennessee baseball. Garrett Wellbrock has inked with Fort Hays baseball. Gavin Meyers has earned Division I offers in football, including a recent offer from North Alabama. Dale’s first cousin, Dalton is a football-wrestling-baseball standout for the Indians.
A pair of seniors, post Jace Linenberger and point guard Carson Kieffer, are in the strong running for 5A Player of the Year. Kieffer has a chance to break Hays High’s all-time assist record. Linenberger earned top/most inspirational player honors at two tournaments this year.
“His decision and his announcement was classic Jordan Dale fashion,” Hutchins said. “He is as quiet and understated a kid as I have ever been around, and I love that about him. It’s something that we can kind of have fun with. Because he knows it, and everyone else knows it.”
Jordan has high jumped since he was a first or second grader. Jessica Dale served as his first coach. She also coached him in youth track and middle school. Jessica high jumped at Barton County Community College and is a physical education teacher at Hays Middle School.
Jessica’s wife and Jordan’s dad, Troy, is a longtime Hays High counselor and former coach with several schools. Troy played baseball at Washburn for two years before he transferred to Fort Hays. Jordan also had Pittsburg State interest. His older sister, Jaycee, had a solid career with the Indians and currently photographs HHS sporting events.
“It’s kind of been my first sport, my first love of athletics,” Jordan said. “I love everything about it. I study it. I watch videos about it all day, all night. It’s really fun for me.”
Dale is part of a highly experienced, close-knit senior class that has grown up together. Hays High, currently ranked fourth in 5A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association.
HHS was Forever Four in ’20, finished 22-1 with a state appearance last winter and is 12-1 this winter. The only defeat was an overtime loss to 6A Lawrence Free State, Kansas’ best team, in the December finals of the Hays City Shoot-Out.
On Tuesday, Hays High plays host to Scott City at home followed by a high-profile road game at Dodge City (13-1, No. 4 6A) on Friday.
Dale said seven of the eight seniors have played together since third grade. Linenberger averages 18.6 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, and Kieffer has 11.3 points and again among the state leaders with 5.5 assists a contest. Hays High averages a remarkable 1.45 points per possession on possessions that end with Linenberger, per SIK research and game logs.
Topeka West’s Elijah Brooks, who is the state’s top scorer at 29.4 points per contest, has 1.30 points per possession.
Other HHS seniors are: Wesley Oakley, Wellbrock, Noah Weimer, Ashton Hernandez and Nate Brooks. Oakley has earned small college basketball interest. Wellbrock is an all-state baseball player.
The group has always been close, especially ever since they started playing Tribe, the longtime Hays travel basketball program.
“It’s really fun,” Jordan said. “We have enjoyed every minute of it. We all love the game. We all love each other so much, play for each other, it’s been a fun ride these last 12 years.”
This season, Dale has picked up attention with his big recent dunks in the Colby Orange and Black tournament. Overall, he averages 6.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He shoots 64 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range. He was named to Colby Orange and Black all-tournament team this year.
“He works,” Hutchins said. “Jordan is a kid that it’s very evident when it’s time for him to come out of the game, because he doesn’t have a coast mode. He goes as hard as he possibly can until he drops, and so you love that about him. It doesn’t matter what game it is, you are going to get his full effort.”
Dale’s greatest impact, though, likely comes defensively. Hays High is currently eighth in Kansas in steals, per MaxPreps. The seven teams ahead are 1/2A programs. HHS is in front of top 5/6A programs such as Wichita Heights, Andover, St. James, defending 5A state champion Maize, and returning 5A runner-up Topeka West.
In ’18-19, Hays High allowed 1.04 points per possession, the year before Hutchins took over the boys. Since then, Dale has seen more playing time. HHS has allowed .82, .71 and this year, .66 points per possession. HHS’ steal rate has vaulted up from 11.4 percent two years ago, to 18.2 last season and 19.3 this winter.
Hays High is a combined 2-1 against Thomas More Prep-Marian, Free State and Pratt, squads that are a collective 30-5. Those teams scored 36, 45 and 45 versus the Indians. In other games, TMP averages 53.7 points a game, Free State 63.7 and Pratt 61.
“Jordan is a kid that I don’t know that the stats will ever tell the story of what he does for our team,” Hutchins said. “There are a lot of things, just with his pressure on defense, and the way he runs to both ends of the court, and the way he cuts sometimes. Even when he has a night where he shoots two shots and scores two points…he is still a difference maker. And our coaching staff recognizes it, his teammates recognize it, and the fun thing is that he is also capable of scoring 15 in a half when he gets hot.”