NEW CASTLE —
New Castle High standout Malik Hooker has ended the speculation.
The three-sport star will wear scarlet and gray in 2014, committing to the NCAA Division I Ohio State University football team Monday night. Hooker, who will be a senior at New Castle in the fall, was one of the most highly recruited prospects out of Pennsylvania in both football and basketball.
“The first time I was there, it just felt right,” Hooker told Bucknuts.com. “I just felt the spark that it was the right place to be. One visit was enough for me. I just felt like I was at home and the coaching staff, they’re all great people.”
Hooker, a 6-foot-2, 175-pounder, has just one year of varsity football experience, but his athleticism and performances for New Castle last season caught the eye of scouts across the country. He proved to be a gamebreaker in the Red Hurricane offense, rushing for 257 yards on 27 carries for a 9.5 yards per carry average. Hooker led New Castle in receiving with 333 yards on 13 receptions for a 25.6 yard average. He scored 11 total touchdowns.
“He went with Ohio State for a variety of reasons. I think he made a smart decision,” ’Canes coach Joe Cowart said. “It wasn’t on a whim. I thought he wanted to get the decision out of the way to start the season. I think he’s excited about it. We as a football team, staff and school district, are thrilled for him.”
Hooker ranked as the eighth best overall prospect from the state of Pennsylvania by 24-7 sports. He is the 16th commitment for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer’s 2014 recruiting class. As of now, Hooker is slated to play safety for the Buckeyes.
“I think he’s an abnormal competitor when he plays. He rises up to the challenge,” Cowart said. “He’s an excellent competitor and has the skills that go along with it that are unique. He’s incredibly athletic with a body that is meant for football.”
Hooker also was heavily recruited in basketball. He helped lead the ’Canes basketball team to an undefeated regular season and a trip to the PIAA Class AAAA semifinals game, a loss to Lower Merion 67-63. Hooker finished with a team-high 19 points, two of which were the result of a dunk in the first half that was featured on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Night. He finished the season with 16.7 points a game, fifth in Lawrence County, with a 62.5 percent free-throw percentage and 20 3-pointers.
Hooker also was a member of New Castle’s track and field team last season, earning a spot in the WPIAL Championships in the high jump.
With lingering questions about where Hooker will go out of the way, he can now focus solely on the upcoming football season ahead. Among reported interested suitors were Navy, Pitt, Penn State, Arizona and Michigan.
“I think he’s a great kid, a kid that everyone wants to root for because the classroom stuff matters to him and his teammates matter to him,” Cowart said. “He’s humble at his core, so it’s going to carry him a long way. I couldn’t be more excited for the young man. I think he took the entire process completely seriously.”