December 14, 2022
Haley Van Dyke was destined to play basketball at Washington
'It's just crazy to see the growth'
Everyone finds their passion at different times. A lot of people look at collegiate basketball players and think that playing basketball at that level is something they’ve dreamed of and worked towards their entire life. However, that isn’t always the case. For Washington Senior forward Haley Van Dyke, basketball didn’t come to her until late in life but it led her down a path that she wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
Van Dyke grew up in Walnut Creek, California, a suburb of San Francisco. Growing up she played a lot of different sports but never really became passionate about any one specific sport. That is, until she got to high school and started playing basketball. Her time at Campolindo high school is where she really fell in love with the game.
“I started really getting into basketball in high school, in middle school I was really just focused on playing all sports just kind of seeing which one I liked the best. I knew basketball was the one was because I think it was the only sport for me that didn’t get boring,” Van Dyke told The Next. “That’s not in a bad way, it was the only sport that really pulled me in and always was just really fun to play. It’s just something that I always stuck with after that and just started training really hard in high school for.”
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By the end of her high school career, Van Dyke ended up being one of the all-time greats at both Campolindo and the state of California. She led her team to the Division III state championship game as junior after putting up 46 points in the semifinal game. Then her senior year, she scored 60 points in a playoff game, an NCS record at the time. She also helped Campolindo defeat rival Miramonte, the former high school of many star collegiate player including Sabrina Ionescu, and ending Miramonte’s 67 game league winning streak in the process.
All of the success Van Dyke had in high school helped put her on college coaches’ radar, but she wasn’t expecting anything to come of it when she first started playing basketball.
“To be honest with you, it all came so fast,” Van Dyke said. “I did not expect it to get to this level to be honest with you, I obviously knew I had talent in that area, but I wasn’t really super focused on it until maybe my junior year, sophomore year when coaches were allowed to start contacting me. Before that it was more of just a thing I did for fun and like something that I really love to do. I think my junior year was when I kind of started getting really really serious about like, oh, wow, I can do this.”
Once Van Dyke started being recruited, there was one school that was on her mind from the beginning: Washington. The Huskies had everything in a school that Van Dyke was looking for. She had watched Kelsey Plum and the success she had at Washington. The campus and the surrounding area spoke to Van Dyke, and she loves the color purple. She’d had some initial conversations with the school during her sophomore and junior year but then at the end of her junior season, Mike Neighbors left Washington to take the head coaching job at Arkansas.
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Going into the summer between her junior and senior year, Van Dyke had no idea if then Washington head coach Jody Wynn had seen her or knew who she was. However, after a good showing at the Nike Nationals tournament in Chicago, Van Dyke got the call she had been waiting for.
“I was really sad when Coach Neighbors left,” Van Dyke said. “I was like, oh, no, I don’t think the new coach knows me. And then after our Chicago tournament, I think it was Nike Nationals. I remember I got a call from Coach Wynn and I was so excited. I remember being so excited about that. I just knew that I was gonna go here from day one, to be honest.”
Van Dyke arrived at Washington and had an immediate impact for the Huskies. She played in every game her freshman and sophomore year, improving in every statistical category in her sophomore season. Going into her junior year, Van Dyke became more of a leader, starting every game and starting to get her talent recognized. She was named All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention and Defensive Team Honorable Mention in the COVID-shortened season. Then, with the pandemic causing more questions than answers, another major hurdle hit Van Dyke, a coaching change.
At the end of her third season, Coach Wynn was fired from Washington. The Huskies replaced her with Tina Langley. Coach Langley came to Washington after six seasons as the head coach at Rice. Coming to Seattle, Langley had never seen Van Dyke play. However, after just a few interactions with her, Langley knew Van Dyke was special.
“Hayley blew me away pretty quickly,” Coach Langley told The Next. “I mean, she is just an incredible young lady. incredibly high character, young woman that always thinks of other people and such a great fit for our leadership style in our team, which is servant leadership. You know, just obviously, a tremendous player can do so many things well on both ends of the floor, and so just really was so excited to have the opportunity to recruit her.”
In her first season under Langley, Van Dyke led the team in scoring and was once again named All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention and Defensive Team Honorable Mention. The season however didn’t go the way Washington wanted as the Huskies finished 7-16, with just two conference victories, which put them last in the Pac-12.
Despite the struggles, Van Dyke really saw herself grow a lot in her first year under Coach Langley. She felt like Coach Langley helped to unlock her strengths and help her better understand her weaknesses. She’s also helped Van Dyke grow as a leader. She never was very talkative, but Coach Langley helped to show her how to help others as well.
“I think that I’ve grown the most off the court I think but that being said, I feel like that has helped me grow on the court because I’ve learned my strengths,” Van Dyke said. “She’s helped me learn my strengths and my weaknesses, things I need to be better at, things I am good at. She’s been just amazing, helping me grow into like a great leader. I never really saw myself as someone that was super-vocal and super-talkative on the court. I’ve always been a really hard worker, but I’ve never really been that leader and I think she’s really helped me realize that I can do that.”
Langley echoed Van Dyke’s appraisal of her growing leadership capacity.
“I think Haley is a young woman that does so many things well, but also holds herself to an incredibly high standard. I think that I’ve loved to watch her be able to celebrate moments and have joy while she plays. She’s become such a great leader, really sacrificing for the good of the team in everything that she does. Her work ethic is second to none,” said Coach Langley of Van Dyke. “And then finally, I would say when you’re a new coach, it’s gonna take you a year to kind of cement a foundational culture that you want to have in a program. And I think Haley not only lived those values but demonstrates them and teaches them so well. And so she’s just been a tremendous leader for us.”
So far this year, Van Dyke has helped lead Washington to their best start since 2016-17. The Huskies are 8-1, already with more wins than they had all of last year. The also picked up their first Pac-12 win on Sunday, defeating Washington State in the first round of the Apple Cup Series. That was the Huskies’ first win over the Cougars since 2019, and Van Dyke was one of five players in double figures in the victory.
Going into her final season, Van Dyke doesn’t have any major goals. She just wants to get better every day and enjoy the time she has with her teammates. Coach Langley has the same mindset for Van Dyke, doing all she can to help her improve.
Van Dyke feels when her time in Seattle comes to a close, she wants to be remembered for the little things. How hard she worked and how she impacted those around her. Van Dyke may not have been the biggest star but her journey and the affect she had on her teammates is something she’ll remember forever.
“I think just the way I have developed and competence-wise, leadership-wise, responsibility-wise, it’s just crazy to see the growth,” Van Dyke said. “And I think also just the impact that I have on my team and the impact the team has had on me just like it’s just really powerful to have great people around you and wanting you to succeed. I would like to be remembered as someone that is just always looking out for others and serving others. That’s the things that I want to take with me forever.”
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.