For almost as long as she can remember, Dove Creek High School junior Grace Hatfield has kept a basketball within arm’s reach.
As an elementary school student, she loudly cheered for her hometown Bulldogs from the stands, and as a middle school sports star, she dreamed of one day leading her school’s high school team to a state title.
Now midway through her third high school season, after knocking down a free throw during a home game against Dolores High School on Tuesday, the talented junior has accomplished a feat that very few players can claim – she has scored 1,000 points in her high school career.
“I’ve been wanting this forever,” Hatfield said. “I go to the gym almost every single day. On the weekends, if there is no practice, I go to the gym. On Sundays I go to the gym. I never get a day off. I’m always working.”
Born to play basketballWhile Hatfield’s 1,000th career point stole her hometown’s headlines on Tuesday night, the seeds of the junior’s monumental accomplishment were sewn more than a decade ago thanks to a family that loved nothing more than competing on the hardwood.
Chief among Hatfield’s family members who adored putting up shots was her father, Jonce Hatfield, who currently serves as an assistant coach on the Dove Creek girls basketball team and has been a longtime student of the game.
From almost the time that she could walk, Jonce would take Grace and her older sister, Marissa, to the gym and assist them in perfecting their ball handling, shooting and defensive acumen.
“My dad showed me almost every move that I know,” Grace said. “My dad has worked me and pushed me through everything.”
While Grace’s father served as her teacher, Marissa, who Grace described as “her idol,” served as her partner in competition as the two spent hours playing Horse and squaring off in one-on-one competitions.
Former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant also played a role in helping Grace perfect her game as the Dove Creek star would spend much of her free time watching clips of the NBA star in action and mimicking his moves.
“Kobe Bryant, he is an amazing player,” Hatfield said. “I watched clips on my phone and on YouTube while I was growing up. I would watch how he did his moves.”
Arrival of a starAfter starring on her pee wee teams and making a name for herself as a middle school scoring machine, Hatfield began her career at Dove Creek High School prior to the 2017-18 season and immediately made an impact.
Playing alongside several upperclassmen during her freshman year, Hatfield averaged 11.8 point per game and 7.4 rebounds and enjoyed her first breakout offensive performance when she scored 23 points during a victory over Ridgway.
Looking to build on her freshman season, Hatfield returned to the hardwood as a sophomore and averaged a whopping 22.5 points per game, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 steals per game while establishing herself as one of the best players in the San Juan Basin League.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my team, that’s for sure,” Hatfield said. “Growing up here, going to preschool here, my teammates have been with me all along.”
Heading into the summer before junior season with seemingly little room to grow offensively, Hatfield returned to the gym and added a deft three-point shot to her already-rich arsenal while focusing on improving her overall strength.
An absolute force on both sides of the court this season, Hatfield has averaged 20.1 points during her team’s first 14 games while also averaging 6.9 rebounds per game and 4.2 steals during the same span.
A monumental momentHeading into Tuesday night’s home matchup against Dolores with 995 career points, Hatfield tried to remain calm despite knowing that local basketball immortality was just five points away.
After scoring her second of two layups early in the first quarter, Hatfield intercepted a pass deep in the backcourt and immediately attacked the rim and drew a foul.
Stepping to the free throw line as she has done countless times in her storied career, Hatfield calmly knocked down her first free throw while fans in the packed gymnasium held up signs bearing the number “1,000” and roared.
“The community (in Dove Creek) is amazing,” Hatfield said. “All the fans that come, there were a lot of people tonight. All of their support, I mean, I love the support that our community provides.”
A bright futureNow approximately three weeks away from the beginning of her team’s postseason, Hatfield is glad to have her 1,000-point milestone behind her and hopeful that she can help lead her team back to the Class 1A State Tournament for the first time since 2014.
The Dove Creek junior, who enjoys reading literature and writing, is also hoping to one day suit up at the college level, possibly for Fort Lewis College, Colorado Mesa University or Hastings College in Nebraska.
Prior to taking her talents to the next level, however, Hatfield plans to enjoy her final year and a half of high school while playing in front of elementary school students and middle school students in the Dove Creek community who hope to one day follow in her footsteps.
“I would tell them to hit the gym all of the time and set your dreams high,” said Hatfield on what advice she would give to local youngsters. “If you have a dream, just keep working and make it a reality.”