From Jan. 3 through Jan. 8, I had the privilege of chasing Austin Halls in his pursuit of Iowa High School Athletic Association basketball history.
It was my first crack at chasing someone who had a chance to do something historic, and I had a blast following the Murray basketball team and Halls those few days.
Halls, of course, surpassed the 2,000 career point milestone on Jan. 4 at home against Moulton-Udell. Then, just four nights later, he became the all-time career leader in steals for the state of Iowa, in all classes.
And, he continues to add to that number in a big way. Halls has a chance to really distance himself from the pack in that category by season’s end.
Until that game on Jan. 3, I had never seen Halls play basketball. I knew he was extremely quick and agile from watching him on the football field, but I still came away impressed at how quick he appeared on the basketball court.
But, as I watched him play three games in three days, it wasn’t his quickness, or his court vision, or his shooting range, or even his quick hands that impressed me the most.
His ability to lead his team was what really struck me.
Halls was constantly vocalizing while on the court, whether it was calling out plays, or keeping his teammates aware of what the situations were on the court. When a teammate made a nice play or hustled after the ball, Halls was the first one to praise him.
When he surpassed the 2,000 point mark on Jan. 4, I asked him what it felt like to finally get that milestone. And when the first thing he mentioned was his teammates, I learned a lot about him.
“You kind of enjoy it, you know, but the most fun comes from playing with the guys,” Halls said that night. “I’ve grown up with them.”
And after briefly discussing the milestone, he went right back to talking about the team.
“But we’ve got bigger goals than that. There are team goals we want to achieve,” he said. “This one’s nice, but we’ve got better goals ahead, so we’ll focus on that.”
Murray head coach Darin Wookey said when Halls came up as a freshman with Cody Scroggie and Eddie Otto, people quickly learned they weren’t your typical freshmen.
“When those boys came up from junior high, Ted Halls had them well-schooled, and they had played more ball than most kids that age had played,” Wookey said. “They weren’t freshmen when we hit the floor. They were 16-7 as freshmen and they led us.”
And even though Halls scores at an amazing clip, he still plays team ball, which Wookey said not everyone realizes.
“That’s the thing. People look at the scorebook and they see him score 30 or they see him score 28, and what they don’t see is how many assists he had per game,” Wookey said. “There’s a lot of times he’s getting double-doubles with 25 points and 12 assists with six or seven rebounds on top of it.”
In fact, Halls now ranks in the top five in career assists as well. Halls ranks first in career steals with 412, fifth in assists with 630, 21st in made 3-pointers with 203 and 22nd in career scoring with 2,136 points. He is the only athlete in state history to rank in the top 22 of each of those career categories.
“There’s not many kids that have those types of numbers in their career ever,” Wookey said. “For him to have that many points and assists, to do what he’s doing with his assists is incredible. We’re just happy to have him at Murray. He’s a special kid to have around.”
It’s amazing the type of career he has put together. He is by far one of the best athletes I’ve covered at the high school level.
Danny Jensen, who has coached Halls as an assistant coach in both basketball and football, agrees that Halls is a unique athlete.
“He is a ‘one of a kind athlete’ and I count it as a privilege to be a part of this great run and to be around him every day, both in football and now in basketball,” Jensen said. “He is a part of a great senior class, and I have to enjoy the moments.”
And Halls doesn’t just excel in athletics, either. Murray activities director Jerry Shields was quick to point out that he also ranks second in grade point average for his class, as well.
Not to mention, he’s also president of the senior class and of the FFA chapter.
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