Shadle Park senior Aleisha Hathaway is at the head of her class in more ways than one.
An all-Greater Spokane League selection a year ago, Hathaway is one of the best players in the league for a third straight season.
Hathaway also is second to none in the classroom. She and teammate Delaney Orcutt are among seven seniors in a class of 302 who sport 4.0 grade-point averages. Hathaway has never had anything less than an A dating back to elementary school.
Excellence in the classroom naturally overflows to the basketball court for Hathaway.
“She’s the most complete player we’ve had coming in as a freshman,” Shadle coach Chad Dezellem said.
The 5-foot-9 Hathaway made an impact immediately, playing the role of sixth man on a team that finished second in the State 3A tournament her freshman year. She became a starter as a sophomore when the Highlanders took third at state.
Her offseason development has come through the Spokane Stars program, which she has been part of since eighth grade.
“She’s one of the best skilled players I’ve had in the last eight to 10 years,” Spokane Stars director Ron Adams said.
Hathaway has been a difficult matchup for Greater Spokane League teams.
“Another great offensive player who can score from anywhere on the floor,” North Central coach Gabe Medrano said in a preseason questionnaire. “Shifty and great at finishing around the basket. She has great feet and quick hands. She’s also a great rebounder.”
Hathaway played post, with her back to the basket, her first three years because Shadle lacked height and grittiness inside. She moved out to her more natural position, wing, this year.
She falls under the label “tweener” for college. She’s not quick enough to play shooting guard and is undersized at wing.
NCAA Division I schools in the Big Sky and Big West conferences have shown interest, but Division II schools Western Washington, Central Washington, Western Oregon and Great Falls (Mont.) are recruiting her.
“I was stuck on going to a big-name school, but I’m over that now,” Hathaway said. “The most important thing for me is to find a school that best fits me academically.”
She plans to pursue something in the medical field and is leaning toward nursing.
That doesn’t surprise Dezellem or Adams.
“She’s got a heart to serve people,” Dezellem said. “She’s going to be successful in whatever she pursues.”
“There are two types of people in the world,” Adams said, “givers and takers. She’s a giver.”
Hathaway plans to sign up for a 27-month commitment to the Peace Corps after completing college. And she wants to work in a not-for-profit health clinic at some point as well.
Her senior season got off to a rough start. She was still feeling the effects of a summer injury involving the displacement of a kneecap. Then she battled through bronchitis. She topped it off with a sprained ankle.
Hathaway has bounced back in the second half of the season. Her knee is finally back to 100 percent and she has her conditioning legs under her.
“She gives the same effort every time,” veteran Shadle Park assistant JT Johnson said. “You wouldn’t be able to tell if we’re up 20 points or down 20 or in a tight game by looking at her. Her work ethic is second to none.”
Hathaway said she got her basketball abilities from her late father, 6-6 Randy Smith, who played basketball at Whitworth University.
Hathaway and her father had a strained relationship for several years. They both started to work on a relationship just before she reached high school.
She flew down to Los Angeles, where Smith lived, in June and was there three weeks when he died.
“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to go down there,” Hathaway said.
She’s proud of her ethnicity.
“I think my mom had an extra white gene,” she said. “I look just like my dad except I’m white not black.”
She wishes she had received one other thing from her father – his height – because she got nothing athletic from her mother.
“My mom is delicate, really girly,” Hathaway said. “I’m not girly. I’m not good at girls stuff. I’m more of a guy.”
It’s evident on the court. She plays so hard that she often beats herself up. She dives for loose balls frequently.
“She sometimes plays too hard to her own detriment,” Dezellem said.
Hathaway hopes to lead Shadle back to state for the first time since her sophomore season. The Highlanders had some chemistry issues earlier in the year, but are playing as well as they have all year in recent games.
“I think a lot of the girls have stepped up in that respect,” Hathaway said of the chemistry. “I’ve just tried to be a leader.”
Long after Hathaway has left Shadle, there are non-basketball things Dezellem will long cherish about her.
“That smile and enthusiasm, the fun and passion for the game,” he said. “She makes people around her better. And her smile lights up a room.”