Against all odds, Hale rebounds to author historic college career
Given a second chance in life, Hale has been nothing but net.
The 5-foot-8 senior guard capped her college career by winning NAIA Player of the Year honors after she led Central Methodist to the quarterfinals of the national tournament for the first time in school history and led the nation in scoring at 28.8 points per game.
“It’s an honor to be national player of the year,” she told me. “First off, this year has been the best year of my whole basketball career; not because I had a successful year playing but because this was the best team I’ve ever been on.
“We’ve come from all over the world and to end up on a team like that is amazing. I’m glad I had the opportunity to play for a national championship with this team. I still believe we were the best team in the country in NAIA.”
No doubt she was the best player.
Hale, of Houston High fame, ranked top 10 nationally in several categories, including first with 806 points, second in free-throw percentage [.874], fifth in 3-pointers made per game  and eighth in 3-point field goals  in 28 games.
“As good as Nene has been in several years, to me there was a definite step up this season,” Central Methodist head coach Mike Davis said in a press release. “I think she took great ownership in each and every game and in practice, her level of play has been at a different level then it has been.”
Hale finished as Central Methodist’s all-time leading scorer with 2,109 points. She also holds single-game records for points , field goals  and free throws .
“I think it was incredible that I broke all these records,” Hale said. “I think I was able to play well consistently this season was because I was in the best shape I’ve been in. Cut down on a few pounds, got a step quicker and things came together.”
Off the court, Hale’s life got back on track with the help of people like Michelle Overstreet of MyHouse, an Alaska organization dedicated to ending homelessness, and Central Methodist associate head coach Greg Ray.
Overstreet helped Hale turn her life around after she had fallen on tough times. Homeless and hopeless, Hale was hanging with the wrong crowd and headed down the wrong road in life before she joined the MyHouse team.
“I can’t thank her enough,” Hale said.
Coach Ray took a chance by recruiting the Alaskan in a move that paid huge dividends as Hale became inarguably the greatest women’s player in CMU history.
“Nene is an amazing kid with an amazing story,” school president Roger Drake said in a press release. “She is the kind of young woman who comes along once in a great many years. It has been a great opportunity to have her study and learn here at CMU.”