PORTSMOUTH — Ava Hassel is used to winning on the basketball court.
So, less than 12 hours after the Notre Dame girls’ program won its 80th consecutive Southern Ohio Conference Division I game, Hassel earned yet another win.
That’s because, right back on the Lady Titans’ home court on Friday morning, the senior point guard signed to continue her education and basketball career at DePauw University — and its Greencastle, Ind. based-campus.
Having announced her commitment via Twitter on Nov. 27, Hassel said the official act of signing was exciting — and even more so that she was able to do it before the end of her senior season.
“I’m really excited. Now that it’s over with and back when I committed, it’s like a weight off my shoulders that now it’s set in stone,” Hassel said. “Now that I’ve been able to make it official with all my family and friends here is exciting. All the girls before me who’ve gone on to play when they’ve graduated, they’ve signed here, so I’ve always wanted to do that when my time came.”
With friends, family and coaches alike in attendance, Hassel’s choice for the next chapter of her life largely reflects this chapter of her life — much success.
The DePauw Tigers, a Division III program that competes as a member of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), has won two Division III national championships in the last 15 years (2007 and 2013) — each under 27th-year head coach Kris Huffman.
Notre Dame coach J.D. McKenzie, also the principal at Notre Dame High School, said he has had conversations with the Tigers’ coaching staff to let them know how well-rounded of a player and person they’ll be getting in Hassel.
“I’m really excited for Ava because I know how excited she is,” McKenzie said. “She’s going to a program with a rich tradition similar to ours — she’s going to be playing for championships at the conference level and hopefully at the national level. She wanted to go somewhere where she was going to compete and be a part of a winning tradition and they’re one of the top D3 programs in the nation. Speaking with their coaches a couple of times, I explained how great of a basketball player they’re getting in many facets, but how great of a person they’re getting. Great student, great morals, comes from a great family. Super excited for her to get this opportunity, and I know she’s going to make the most of it.”
Hassel herself said developing the relationships with DU’s coaching staff and players, and her desire to win, is what ultimately led her to signing to become a Tiger.
“I’ve gotten to know the coaches and most of the players pretty well, they’ve all welcomed me and made it easier,” Hassel said. “They’ve got a great basketball program already and I hope to help them win a national championship. They’ve already won two in the past 15 years and I’d love to help them get another. And I think it’s one of the best schools that gives me opportunities after college.”
Hassel was named all-Southern Ohio Conference in each of her first three seasons, earned Division IV all-Ohio second team during her junior season, and is on pace to repeat as SOC I Player of the Year during her senior season.
In terms of wins, nobody in the history of Notre Dame girls basketball — aside from her senior teammates — is on pace to record more.
Through her first three seasons and the start of their fourth, the Lady Titans have posted a 78-6 record, claimed three straight Division IV district titles, and landed a school-best D-IV regional runner-up finish to conclude the 2019-20 season back in March.
Hassel has also been a four-year member of Notre Dame’s volleyball and softball teams.
When asked what the Tigers’ coaching staff is expecting from her at the next level, Hassel simply said she hopes to have her game translate into their winning culture.
“They’ve told me they want me to come in, play my game and try to not have those freshmen jitters,” she said. “I hope to go in, really step up and help the team as best I can.”
Just a day before Notre Dame begins its Christmas break, and the second half of this senior class’ final semester begins, Hassel says she is thankful for being part of the Lady Titan programs.
She hopes she and her teammates can continue relaying the message of being at Notre Dame — that has been passed down through to her.
“It’s such a privilege and an honor,” Hassel said, of being a Lady Titan. “We have a young group this year, and we’ve really been trying to nail that into their brains — that it’s such a privilege. It’s been one of the biggest parts of my life, playing here and going to school here — it’s a blessing. I’ve always had great chemistry with our teams, the coaches are the best, the girls on the team are all my best friends. Most of my best memories from high school are going to come from here.”
Hassel hasn’t officially declared upon a major, but did express an interest in pre-law.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved