by Ed Beach
Drury women’s basketball forward Hailey Diestelkamp was named to the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s highest honor on Wednesday when the league selected her and University of Indianapolis women’s golfer Pilar Echeverria as this year’s Richard F. Scharf Paragon Award winners. The voting for this year’s award ended in a tie as the two student-athletes, each the NCAA-II Player of the Year in their respective sport for two straight seasons, will share the honor.
The awards are bestowed annually by the GLVC to one male and one female student-athlete that display academic excellence, athletic ability and achievement, character, and leadership. It is named in honor of the former GLVC Commissioner, as well as, coach and director of athletics at Saint Joseph’s College. This year, for the second time in league history, there was a tie in voting for the women’s award.
Diestelkamp won national Player of the Year honors in Division II by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, and the Division II Conference Commissioners Association following the 2019-20 season. She also earned First Team All-American honors this year from the WBCA and the D2CCA.
The Owensville, Missouri native averaged 21.6 points per game, 7.4 rebounds, shot .522 from the field and registered 2.8 steals per game. Diestelkamp became the first player in Drury history to surpass 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, and her 2,321 career points led all active players in Division II at the end of the year. She is Drury’s all-time leader in scoring and rebounding in addition to being fourth all-time in steals.
Diestelkamp’s point total also ranks her 24th in the history of NCAA-II women’s basketball, and she is the sixth player ever at the D-II level to reach 2,300 points and 1,100 career rebounds.
Diestelkamp set a team and GLVC single-game scoring record with 53 points in the final home game of her career against Rockhurst on Feb. 29. She managed to score in double-figures in 30 of Drury’s 32 games, and she notched 12 double-doubles last season. Diestelkamp was named the NCAA-II Player of the Week twice during 2019-20 in addition to earning MVP honors in the GLVC Tournament for the third year in a row as she helped the Lady Panthers to their fourth consecutive conference title.
Drury finished the season undefeated at 32-0, won the GLVC championship for the fourth straight year, and they ended the year ranked number one in NCAA-II. During Diestelkamp’s four-year career with the Lady Panthers, her team went 128-8 overall and 72-2 in conference play.
A Psychology major, Diestelkamp accumulated a 3.4 overall grade-point-average entering this semester and earned back-to-back CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in her junior and season year. She was also named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America squad this spring, and last year was an Academic All-GLVC pick and is on track to repeat as such in 2020.
Outside of the classroom and the gym, Diestelkamp served the entire conference by participating in two public service video campaigns. She shared her personal story in the “GLVC is Me” promotional piece and helped fellow students with mental health awareness in the “Someone to Listen” series.
Hailey is only the third female student-athlete at Drury ever to receive the GLVC’s Paragon Award and is the first one since 2008 when her former coach, Molly (Carter) Miller won the honor. Drury’s other Paragon Award winner from women’s sports was Amanda Newton, also from women’s basketball, in 2006.
A total of seven Drury student-athletes have now won the Paragon Award as DU has had four from men’s sports win the honor including Jamie Villa Zapatero (cross country, track & field, 2011), Nick Thimesch (baseball, 2014), Sean Feher (swimming & diving, 2015), and Andrew Bazzoli (swimming & diving, 2018).
UIndy’s Pilar Echeverria shares the Paragon Award with Diestelkamp. Echeverria was the NCAA-II Women’s Golfer of the Year for the last two seasons and ended her career sweeping the GLVC Women’s Golfer of the Year award earning the honor in all four of her seasons competing for the Greyhounds.