MAPLE CITY — Glen Lake basketball star Reece Hazelton says he's almost 6-foot-8, but that he may be on the down slope.
Maybe when it comes to his height, but not his game.
Ferris State has followed Hazelton's journey along his growth chart since eighth grade, and for its patience and persistence, Hazelton rewarded the Bulldogs with his college commitment.
"Ever since I got my Ferris offer, it's been my No. 1," Hazelton said.
The versatile forward is one of the area's top hoopers as he heads toward his senior season, and Hazelton wanted to commit now so he can play free during his last Lakers campaign.
"I'm pretty happy and excited," he said. "I'm pretty relieved and happy about where I'm gonna be and excited for what the future holds.
"They've been recruiting me since eighth grade. This is one of my dreams I've been looking forward to since I can remember. It feels pretty awesome to say that I'll be doing that."
Hazelton was an honorable mention all-state pick in Division 3 last season, averaging 16 points on 68% shooting, six rebounds and 2.7 assists.
His play, along with numerous talented counterparts like Xander Okerlund and brothers Cade and Drew Peterson — all of whom have gone on to play college sports — led the Lakers to 44 wins and a state championship game appearance in the last two seasons.
To play for a winner at the next level wasn't the most important factor in Hazelton's decision, but the fact Ferris State won a NCAA Division II national championship in 2018 didn't hurt.
"Coach Bronkema, he's an awesome guy to be around," Hazelton said. "He's going to put me in a spot to succeed and have fun in every aspect of college life. The team is a close-knit, family-type atmosphere.
"I felt good about going to that spot. I wanted my senior year to be free to play my game and not worry about what colleges are coming and that kind of stuff."
It's easy to see why the Bulldogs want Hazelton so badly. He's a big, tough scorer inside and outside.
He can play three positions at minimum — the off-ball guard and both forward spots. And he plays with fire.
"I'm really happy for Reece," Glen Lake head coach Rich Ruelas said. "He has worked extremely hard at basketball. I think he found the right fit. The big thing is they really wanted him and they showed him. The weekly communications and campus visits, the interest proved to him they really wanted him. It meant a lot to Reece.
"He is going to put the work in to keep progressing. He's a pretty passionate dude."
Hazelton isn't sure what he'll pursue academically at this point at Ferris, where former Elk Rapids standout Cole Walker starts at center. He said now that he's committed he can investigate areas of study that appeal to him.
As for his final season on the court at Glen Lake, he says there is plenty left to accomplish despite all the past success.
"With last year, being taken out of the (district) playoffs pretty early is one of my biggest motivators," Hazelton said. "I just want to make it back to the Breslin and try to make another run."