Giving Thanks for a Scholarship

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October 11, 2023
Smiling Bella

Eastern Washington women’s basketball power forward Bella Hays is preparing to get on the court for the 2023-24 season.

Since she was a kid, Hays wanted to play basketball and it was a driving factor in her effort, both athletically and academically, to go to college.

“My ultimate goal was to play basketball in college, but also getting my education paid for too. I didn’t want to have to worry about paying for it while playing.”

Majoring in Exercise Science, Hays’ scholarship gives her the opportunity to pursue her goals after college.

“It’s amazing to have my scholarship. It will get me through my undergrad degree. I’ll have grad school to go through after that so not having to worry about debt in my undergrad years is huge.”

Hays arrived in Cheney for the 2022-23 season, after Eastern offered her a scholarship late in the recruiting period. The Eagles were the only program to offer the Wasilla, Alaska native a full ride.

“Eastern was my only option, partially because I started my process really late,” Hays explained. “Being from Alaska, I wasn’t able to travel during COVID. I didn’t commit until January of my senior year [2022]. It was really important to get the offer to come here.”

Hays grew up in Wasilla, Alaska, playing at Wasilla High School. She is the oldest of four siblings, including a twin brother who is also starting his college journey.

With one sibling in college and two others in the wing, Hays says her scholarship is a valuable benefit. 

“The scholarship is a great opportunity for me because I have three other siblings, two of which are in college right now and one is going to be in college soon. My parents, not having to worry about my college tuition, allows them to focus on my siblings’ situations. It also helps me focus on basketball and my academics.”

Hays uses her scholarship as motivation, both academically and athletically, to ease the financial burden on her family. As the oldest, she sees the value in maintaining this as she goes through college.

“My twin brother’s process was a little different. He started later and also plays sports, but his situation, of earning a scholarship, was more half-and half-with sports and academics. My younger sister doesn’t play sports so she will have to pay for school on her own. It’s been eye opening for me to see how lucky I am, playing basketball and not having to worry about paying for school.”

At Wasilla High, Hays averaged 13.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. She was a three-time first-team All-State selection, while earning All-Conference honors all four years at Wasilla. Hays also earned letters in basketball, volleyball and track and field.

The redshirt-freshman will look to make her debut for Eastern this season after being sidelined with an injury last season.

On the coaching staffs influence

“Our staff pushes academics at home and when we’re on the road. We always have scheduled study times. They make sure tutors are available to us. They push us to stay up-to-date on academics so we can stay up-to-date on the court.”