ST. JOSEPH — Basketball helped baseball player Hunter Hart make a decision about football.
Here’s how that played out.
Hart participated in basketball for two years at St. Joseph-Ogden but skipped last year to focus on preparing for his No. 1 sport, baseball. The basketball team went on to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Baseball was again a priority last summer for Hart, whose ambitious schedule allowed little time for football workouts.
He thought after not playing football, a sport he played only as a freshman and as a junior.
“What got me back out was the chance to play sports with my friends,” Hart said.
His decision has been a win-win one.
He’ll get a 14th game with his buddies on Friday when the Spartans play Stillman Valley in the Class 3A state championship game at Northern Illinois University, which received an inch of snow on Monday. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Hart leads the (11-2) Spartans in receptions (30), receiving yards (456) and touchdown catches (eight).
“I came in thinking I’d like to help any way possible,” Hart said. “I didn’t expect to have the numbers I put up.”
Hart hauled in two scoring strikes from Dalton Walsh in Saturday’s semifinal win at Greenville.
SJ-O coach Dick Duval said when Hart was a freshman, “he showed great signs of being a solid receiver.”
The coach is not surprised at the impact the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder has made throughout this season.
“If it was at another position, he might not have been able to do that,” Duval said. “As a receiver, once you learn the routes you can fit in a little easier than at some of the other positions.”
Hart is a sure-handed receiver with the overall athletic ability that is prominent in athletes able to earn varsity letters in three sports.
“He has deceiving speed and great hands,” Duval said. “He has made some of the best catches we’ve had this year.”
Hart learned his lessons about missing a sport last year. He will go directly from football into basketball. The season opener in that sport is next Tuesday.
This week, however, he has tunnel vision. It’s football.
“This should be an experience of a lifetime,” Hart said.
The reigning Area Player of the Year in baseball — he’s a pitcher who has signed with Big Ten champion Indiana — Hart could experience another of the ultimate thrills next June. Some professional scouts have indicated there’s a chance he could be selected in the amateur major league draft.
“Hopefully, I will get to see what both experiences are like,” Hart said.
At least one is guaranteed.