Hoxie lineman getting big attention

Randy Gonzales
Special to Hays Daily News
Hoxie's Harlan Obioha is receiving Division I offers in football and basketball.

Harlan Obioha, who stands 7-foot and weighs around 300 pounds, has a big decision to make. Football or basketball.

Obioha, a standout in both football and basketball entering his senior year at Hoxie High School, has been receiving NCAA Division I scholarship offers since March. Most have been in football, but he is receiving attention from basketball programs, as well. He might want to try to play both in college.

“At this point I’m open to all three,” options, Obioha told 247sports.com in April. “It’s a big decision to make. I plan on going as many visits as possible.”

Obioha feels at home both on the basketball court – where he averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds per game last year – and on the football field, where he will play different positions this fall for the Indians.

Hoxie football coach Lance Baar said Obioha – who played mostly center and nose tackle in the past – will be used at guard and tight end on offense and defensive end and defensive tackle on the other side of the ball. Baar can imagine Obioha going up for a pass in the end zone.

“He’s definitely athletic enough to get out and run routes, with his height and size,” Baar said. “He’s going to be very hard to cover. There are some situations where he could be very beneficial to us, in red zone, things like that.”

Hoxie, an Eight-Man Division I school that has gone 72-36 and won a state championship with Baar on the sidelines, opens the season at Leoti against Wichita County then travels to La Crosse in Week 2. The Leopards, in their first year playing eight-man, have 6-6 lineman Lucas Webster.

“Those are great measuring points for our team, see where we can go from there,” said Baar, who thinks Wichita County should be ranked No. 1 in the state. “I think what happens after those two games will determine what type of team we’re going to be.”

Hoxie returns four starters from last year’s 4-5 team. In addition to Obioha, the Indians have back junior quarterback Ashton Dowell.

“He’s got a really good grasp of what we did last year and what we’re pushing this year,” Baar said.

Hoxie boys basketball coach Jake Moss said Obioha has a good grasp of the game and knows what to do on the court. The Indians finished 21-3 and made the 2A state tournament last season.

“As big as he is, probably the biggest thing is his hands and his touch and his passing ability,” Moss said. “A lot of time, coordination doesn’t come with size. We’re able to use him a lot of different ways.”

Moss said Obioha improved his game a lot over the summer. He played summer ball with his Hoxie teammates before playing travel ball on the AAU circuit. Obioha developed his 3-point shot over the summer, so he is a threat to pass or shoot at the high post or go down on the block and post up.

Before Obioha, Hoxie liked to run and press under Moss. That changes when you have a 7-footer on the roster.

“He’s a great asset to have,” Moss said. “Those guys don’t come around very often. We have to take advantage of it.”

Obioha’s mother is 6-foot and played volleyball at Kansas Wesleyan. His father, at 7-1, played basketball for West Texas A&M.

“I’m seven-foot and all of it,” Obioha told 247sports.com. “I’ve just been tall all of my life.”

Iowa State was the first big college program to offer Obioha a scholarship, on March 28. Since then, he has received several additional offers, including from Arizona, Indiana, Colorado State, Ohio, Akron, UMass, Texas State, Arkansas State, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois and Mississippi. Basketball offers include Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Grambling.

“His love truly is basketball,” Tabetha Gillespie, Obioha’s mother, told The Athletic in a June article on its website, “so for him to start getting all these football scholarships, we’re like ‘Whaaat?’ ”

Obioha told 247sports.com he knows what he is looking for in a school.

“I’ve got to find a place that says home to me,” Obioha said.