February 5, 2013

Hale and Mitchell prove to be kindred spirits

Denison senior basketball player Dimonde Hale has been climbing the charts faster than a Beyonce single of late, and on Saturday he reached some rarified air.

In the Big Red's 70-64 victory over Hiram, Hale surpassed 1957 graduate Lou Mitchell, moving into fourth-place on Denison's all-time career scoring list. The 1,633rd point of Hale's DU career came on a tip-in in the first half. He would go on to post a double-double with a team-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. It was a critical victory for the Big Red, who is looking to make another late-season charge up the North Coast Athletic Conference standings. As of Tuesday they sit in a three-way tie for fourth-place in the conference race. That fourth-place position is significant since the top four teams in the final regular-season standings earn the home-court advantage in the quarterfinal round of the NCAC Tournament.

All of this would have been a joyous occasion for Mitchell. The college lost one of its most ardent supporters last June, and the chasm left by his passing has been felt all season. Mitchell, who was 78, was a fixture at Big Red basketball games, usually holding court in the bleachers across from the visiting bench with former teammates and friends from the community.

Given Mitchell's fondness and affinity for Hale—both were area high school standouts, Mitchell coming from Newark High and Hale from Columbus Northland—Denison's Wednesday-night contest in Livingston Gym would have been a moving event. And there would have been plenty to celebrate. In addition to Hale's scoring feat, he was recently named as one of only 20 semifinalists for the prestigious John Wooden Citizenship Cup, an award that is presented to the most outstanding role model in the nation across all sports and all divisions of the NCAA.

Instead of a holding a celebration rejoining Mitchell and Hale to honor their superior athletic achievements, however, we are left to reflect upon the man whose loyalty, kindness and generosity will have an impact on the college for generations to come. Take one look at the renovation and expansion of the spectacular building that bears his name, the Mitchell Center, and there is no doubting the legacy Lou has left behind.

With four regular-season games remaining and a likely conference tournament appearance on the horizon, Hale has a chance to move up yet another notch on the school's all-time scoring list. He is currently just 95 points behind third-place Brian Malinowski '96. This is clearly one of the rare instances in sports where the feat is not judged by the statistics produced, but rather the players who were passed in the process. It doesn't get much more special than that.