By CIRI summer intern Charles “Chas” Anderson
“Starting at point guard, standing at 5-foot-8 out of Central Methodist University, DaJonee’ Hale!”
Meet CIRI shareholder DaJonee’ “Nene” Hale (Athabascan), a recent graduate of Central Methodist University and a rising basketball star. Growing up in Anchorage, Nene was exposed to the sport at a young age and began playing when she was 7. “We had a little basketball hoop outside and I loved playing for fun with my brother,” she recalled.
Those moments with her brother proved more than just an endearing memory, as they planted the seed for a life-long love of the game.
Nene began playing on an organized team in middle school. At Alaska’s Houston High School, she was instrumental in advancing her team to the 2013 3A state championship quarterfinals. Her on-court talent was rewarded with a full-ride athletic scholarship to Central Methodist University (CMU), a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I women’s basketball program located in Fayette, Mo. It was at CMU that Nene would reunite with Greg Ray, her former middle and high-school basketball coach. “I wasn’t expecting to even play after high school,” she said, but the chance to hone her skills under Ray’s tutelage proved too good an offer to pass up.
At CMU, Nene came into her own – by her sophomore year, she was already averaging 20 points a game. A matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, she excelled at the point guard and shooting guard positions. Nene made scoring look easy, and she proved just as deadly connecting from the three-point range as she was driving in and attacking the basket. The ability to score was not the only trick she had up her sleeve – she showed a knack for distributing to teammates as well as rebounding the basketball, averaging 2.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds her senior year. “Year after year, I progressed as a player and developed my game,” Nene said.
Nene led the NAIA in scoring her senior year, racking up 28.8 points a game, including an astonishing 50-point performance against Grand View University. Her athletic prowess caught the eye of sports enthusiasts and the public alike, and she was awarded the 2018 NAIA National Player of the Year title as well as the Trajan Langdon Award, given by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame to an Alaskan athlete who demonstrates unparalleled leadership, integrity and sportsmanship. With regard to accepting the Trajan Langdon award, “I wasn’t expecting that, and I wasn’t expecting it to be such a big ceremony!” Nene said.
While playing professional women’s basketball is her “ultimate goal,” Nene has plenty of academic and professional achievements to fall back on. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from CMU, and in 2015, she interned in CIRI’s Shareholder Relations department where she spent time tracking down missing shareholders, locating birth records and fielding shareholder questions.
“I thought it (the CIRI internship) was awesome,” Nene said. “The Shareholder Relations department, it’s like a family and they made me feel super welcome. I was there for my birthday, and they all came together and got me a gift. I got to meet new people and network as well. I really enjoyed it.”
This summer she landed an internship with the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation, helping the organization with communications and outreach. “I’m going with the flow right now and keeping my options open,” Nene said. “I just want to take one thing at a time, but in the future, I may want to use my mathematics background to go into some type of engineering program.”
While Nene has already cemented her legacy as a premier Alaskan athlete, she now moves on to her newest challenge: playing professional basketball overseas in Europe. Fresh off Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) tryouts in Columbus, Ohio, by playing for a season in Europe, Nene hopes to garner more exposure and attract the attention of WNBA scouts. “I’m nervous, but I feel ready to play at the professional level,” she said. Her basketball idols include WNBA players Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings, Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx and Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks.
“Ideally, I’d like to play (basketball) until my body gives out,” Nene said. “Honestly, I love it. I’ve gotten experience playing at the college level, and now I see myself in basketball. Whatever can bring me around basketball, that’s where I’ve found the most success in my life. It’s just where I thrive.”