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Hazel Park High girls hoops on the rise

By: Mark Vest | Madison - Park News | Published January 17, 2020

 Hazel Park High senior Heaven Varner advances the ball against Madison Heights Madison earlier this season. Hazel Park has already won more games than the program won all of last season.

Hazel Park High senior Heaven Varner advances the ball against Madison Heights Madison earlier this season. Hazel Park has already won more games than the program won all of last season.

Photo by Donna Agusti


HAZEL PARK — Despite being less than halfway through its season, Hazel Park High girls basketball has already won more games than the program did all of last season.

At press time, the Vikings were 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Macomb Area Conference Bronze Division.

Coach Dakota Ogles is in his first season leading the program.

“We’re learning,” Ogles said. “We’re (getting) a little more comfortable with each other. We have some great senior leadership.”

What Ogles has done with the program has not escaped the attention of Hazel Park Athletic Director Dr. David P. Muylaert.

After not having a JV program last season, Hazel Park now has one in place.

“He’s done a phenomenal job of working and building the program up back to where it was over the past couple years,” Muylaert said. “We haven’t had a JV program, and now we have two full teams. He’s worked hard in the offseason and during the season, holding kids accountable in and out of the classroom; (he’s) organized practices, building skills. He’s done a very good job restoring basketball back to where it was previously.”

Having players who are easy to work with can make life a lot more pleasant for a coach in his first season leading a varsity program.

“I can say I’ve been truly blessed,” Ogles said. “These girls, they work extremely hard. They make my job really easy. So we go out there (and) we’re ready to work (and) have fun.”

In order for Hazel Park’s program to continue to progress, solid leadership is likely going to have to be an essential ingredient. Fortunately for Ogles, the leadership he has been getting has been “great.”

“I think that’s everything,” he said. “(Especially) the younger girls, the JV, they’re (going to) see the senior leadership and follow (in) their footsteps. … We got great leadership. We have seven seniors total on the varsity team, and they understand what they’re supposed to be doing. (They’re) setting the foundation. I can’t ask for a better year to come into coaching with the class I got right now.”

Heaven Varner and Olivia Hart are Hazel Park’s two senior captains.

Hart has taken notice of the job Ogles has done with the team.

“I think coach is a great asset to our team this year,” Hart said. “He’s making us work on many things we need to work on.”

After only winning two games all of last season, Hart has lofty aspirations for this year’s squad.

“I think we’re capable of winning districts,” she said, “so that’s my goal for the team. I think we should win districts, win our league, I’m hoping. So we have big goals, but we have to work for them.”

From Varner’s perspective, the Vikings are capable of a lot.

“We have big guards; we have strong post (players),” Varner said. “I think we could go all the way to districts and win it.”

The kind of aspirations that Ogles expressed for the program extend beyond the court.

“Shooting for the moon — state championship would be ideal,” Ogles said. “I ... hope I can set these girls on a path to enjoying basketball, getting to be the best basketball player they can be, but also help (them) grow into young adults when it comes time to get into the real world.”

The later teams get into the season, the more exciting things can get.

“We’re getting into the meat and potatoes of our schedule,” Ogles said. “Every game means something, so I’m excited for it; the girls are excited for it.”

Up next, Hazel Park plays at 5 p.m. Jan. 24 at home against Madison Heights Madison.