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The Antelope

Seven years strong: Haley Simental continues collegiate basketball experience

Kosuke Yoshii/ANTELOPE STAFF Simental dribbles her way into her third year with the Lopers.

Haley Simental had a whirlwind of a basketball career before reaching UNK. She graduated from Pueblo West High School (Colorado) with a school-record 1,411 career points and was a three-time all-state pick. However, after sustaining an injury during her freshman season at the University of Denver, Simental’s playing career was put in jeopardy.

She suffered an ankle injury that was originally thought to be a simple fix through surgery, but as the pain lingered, a second, more serious surgery followed during her junior year.

“That surgery was really hard to recover from,” Simental said. “It took me a while to be able to even run and walk. It was a pretty grueling rehab, just every day trying to be able to move it better and get strong enough to where I could play again.”

Following her senior season at the University of Denver, where she was never fully healthy, Simental had plans to play a fifth year of basketball. She originally wanted to stay in Colorado, but a call from UNK assistant coach Devin Eighmey changed her trajectory.

“I came out on the visit because my brother was coming to visit and I was just going to hang out with my dad,” Simental said. “I ended up really liking the coaches, the team and the opportunities they had for me here. I thought I would have the best chance coming here to play the best that I could be.”

After receiving two extra years of eligibility due to injuries and COVID-19, Simental is now on year seven of her college basketball career and is just happy to be playing the game that she loves.

“I just have a lot of fun,” Simental said. “I don’t worry too much about stats or role on the team because I just want to be a part of something where we all come together and try to be the best we can be. I think sports are an amazing way to bring people together.”

Simental used the extra time to earn her master’s degree in sports management. She is now taking undergrad classes to remain eligible.

This is Simental’s third and final season with the Lopers and her favorite memory came a year ago when the team won the 2020-2021 MIAA conference tournament, with a 57-51 victory over Fort Hays State.

“I thought that was just so awesome how we played together, and it felt like a culmination of a lot of work over the years,” Simental said.

Following the win, Simental was able to share a moment with her family, who had supported her through all the triumphs and tribulations over the years.

“Basketball has always been something between me, my dad and siblings,” Simental said. “It just felt really nice to have that kind of success, thinking about how close our team was and how we worked really hard to get there.”

Among those celebrating with Simental was her brother David, who is currently on the UNK men’s basketball team. After their original visit, David decided to attend CSU Pueblo, but transferred to UNK in 2021.

Haley Simental went through a lot of personal injury struggles to make it where she is today at UNK and appreciates everyone that helped her along the way.

“I still feel those injuries, especially because it’s year seven, but I just feel so grateful,” Simental said. “For all the people that helped me at DU (University of Denver), my trainers, coaches that believed in me and my parents that always stood by and supported me even if they thought I was being crazy for trying to keep going.”

The Lopers’ season is in its final stretch, and Simental still has enough left in the tank to finish strong and cap off a truly remarkable career.

“It’s my last year and whatever I get and however it turns out I just know I’ve given it my best,” Simental said.

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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