by Brittany Bowers ALL SPORTS TUCSON
The season might be over, but the excitement still continues on for the 2022 State Champions at Salpointe Catholic. Most recently, senior leaders Kylee Callahan and Tessa Hastings publicly announced where they’ll continue both their academic and athletic careers for the next four years, bringing more buzz to the up and coming program. Callahan will be attending Knox University, and Hastings The University of Dallas. For The Lady Lancers, the news is huge.
“They both deserve the opportunity to play at the next level and have their education covered,” Salpointe coach Joseph Luevano said. “I don’t believe Knox University and the University of Dallas fully understand how lucky both schools are.”
Both Callihan and Hastings have been part of the Lancers’ hoop squad since their freshman year. Throughout the duration of their career, they’ve been able to help the program do a complete 180-degree turn from where it was only a few years ago. Since the addition of Luevano to the Lancer program, the duo continued to transform into quite a force.
“The biggest reason we’ve been extremely successful the last two years was the leadership of [teammate] Jaya Nelson, Kylee and Tessa,” Luevano said. “They began to believe in what we were doing as a team every game, every half, every quarter and every minute.”
While signing an athletic scholarship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s also one the ladies are glad to have behind them as graduation for the Lancers is just around the corner. For both Callahan and Hastings, the already stressful landscape of college basketball recruiting became even more challenging with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Covid made it very hard to get noticed, especially because it allowed the transfer portal to be left open,” Callihan said.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to play in any tournaments the summer before my Junior year, which is prime recruiting time,” Hastings said. She continued, “It was really difficult knowing I was missing the chance to be seen and the opportunity to get better.”
It wasn’t an ideal situation for the young prospects, eager to play in front of spectators and show off their skills, but the adversity didn’t deter them from their end-goal of getting an athletic scholarship. Instead, the girls used the struggles as motivation to grow into two of the top players in Arizona from the class of 2022, capping off their season by bringing home the state title.
Callahan, who’s mother also sported a Salpointe jersey for the girls hoops squad years ago, was a four-year member of the varsity program. From averaging 5.8 points per game as a freshman to 16.4 as a senior, her continued athletic growth goes hand-in-hand with her character growth.
By the end of her senior season, she had amounted 1,054 career points, while also averaging 3.1 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game.
“Kylee is a worker, a doer,” Luevano said. “She is going to work her tail off and she is going to win… I know from day one at Knox she’s going to be a positive leader and convince others to compete to the best of their abilities.”
Committing to Knox University in Galesburg, Illinois, Callahan says she feels a sense of relief finally having solidified her plans for college.
“I feel a sense of relief knowing I have the next part of my life planned out, but I also feel somewhat nervous,” Callahan said. “I am starting over completely in so many ways.”
Callahan said the academic and athletic opportunities for her at Knox were enticing, along with having some family and friends in the area. In college, she plans to major in Biology with the intention of getting into sports medicine later in life as a Physical Therapist.
“I chose Knox because of a few reasons,” Callahan said. “One being the academics it can provide. Two, I already have family and friends from home there so comfortability won’t be a problem; And, three, because of the basketball program. I had the opportunity to meet the team and coaches and I fell in love.”
Hastings, a three-year member of the varsity program, was not necessarily the leading scorer, but she was hands-down the scrappiest and most aggressive player on the court most of the time. Impacting intangible aspects of the game, Hastings often had an impact that didn’t show up on stat sheets.
“Tessa is a bright-eyed assassin,” Luevano said, noting he also expects her to be a leader from the moment she arrives on campus. “She does an incredible job of being a leader and trying to bring harmony to the team. At the same time, she is in constant attack-mode.”
For Hastings, the decision to attend the University of Dallas had multiple dimensions to it. Not only will it be a homecoming of sorts, as Dallas is where she grew up as a child, but her family also has a long history of attending the university, as well.
“I grew up in Dallas before we moved to Tucson and The University of Dallas has always been sort of a family school,” Hastings said. “Both of my sisters graduated from there amidst other cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. so I’ve always known about it and grew up visiting there a lot.”
While her bloodline has a long reputation with the school, there were also other factors influencing her decision to commit to the University of Dallas. Not only did the school’s academic programs go hand-in-hand with what Hastings was looking for in a college, but it also aligns with her religious beliefs.
“I chose [The University of Dallas] because it has a great business program, it has a strong Catholic identity which I loved, and it has some really amazing opportunities such as a Rome campus, where I will study abroad,” Hastings said.
Hastings also noted the number of noteworthy connections for internship opportunities and the ability to live near her extended family as other reasons for her decision.
In college, Hastings is planning to study business and is pondering the possibility of going into corporate law in the future.
Luevano stressed how important academics always were to the Lady Lancers, but especially for these two seniors. Seeing mounds of potential and possibility in each of them, Luevano is anxiously awaiting to see what they’re able to accomplish in the future.
“Both Kylee and Tessa are excellent students with great character,” Luevano said. “Their talent on the court is just icing on the cake.”
“Student athletes like Kylee and Tessa don’t come around very often,” Luevano said. “I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them, get to know them and their families, and build long-lasting, meaningful relationships with them.”
For the dynamic duo, saying farewell to Tucson is bittersweet. Both of them expressed how much the surrounding community has meant to them during their high school careers, saying they were grateful and blessed for everyone who’s helped them along the way.
“I’d like to thank my parents for driving me all over Arizona, and flying all over America just to watch me play and give me chances to get better,” Hastings said.
She continued, “I’d also like to thank my coaches, Coach Joe, Coach Kenny, Coach Eric and everyone else who has made me not only the player I am but the person I’ve become during my time here in Tucson. I’d also like to thank Coach Bri for making the recruiting process so easy… and my teammates, family and friends. Lastly, I want to thank God, because I wouldn’t be here today without him.”
“I want to thank my coaches, both club and high school, for the time, love and support they’ve provided me over the past few years,” Callahan said. “I’d also like to thank my parents and the rest of my family for being a part of this long journey and making every game and practice a priority, even when they didn’t have to. Lastly, I’d like to thank every one of my teammates, past and present, for making me the player and person I am today.”
While they’re going to miss their family and friends, they’re also looking forward to getting the next phase of life underway. They also want to send one final message to their teammates at Salpointe.
“To SCHS Girls Basketball – I expect many more year numbers on the state championship banner,” Hastings said. “Go win another one!”
“My fellow teammates, I love you all very much and wish you the best of luck in your upcoming season,” Callahan said. “Make sure to work hard and support each other even in the toughest of times. Also, Win another one for us!”