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Prospect Watch: New Castle's Malik Hooker

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - New Castle's Malik Hooker.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>New Castle's Malik Hooker.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - New Castle's Malik Hooker scores past Cathedral Prep's Conor Colpoys during the second quarter of their PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Edinboro University.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>New Castle's Malik Hooker scores past Cathedral Prep's Conor Colpoys during the second quarter of their PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal Saturday, March 16, 2013, at Edinboro University.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

MALIK Hooker

6-foot-2, 165 pounds, WR/DB, SG, New Castle

New Castle's Malik Hooker always saw himself as a basketball player, but one season of varsity football has college coaches telling him otherwise.

The 6-foot-2 junior has been the second-leading scorer for the two-time WPIAL champion Red Hurricanes and considered one of the best basketball players in the WPIAL's 2014 class. His 16.9-point scoring average is ninth-best in Class AAAA.

“He's madly in love with basketball,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said.

But a newfound football prowess prompted Penn State coach Bill O'Brien to visit Hooker's high school this winter and drew a scholarship offer from Buffalo. It's all surprising for Hooker, who returned to football last fall for the first time since eighth grade.

“It's a great feeling because I didn't expect it to happen,” he said. “I only played football through junior high. I came out my junior year and now all of this is happening. I wouldn't have expected it to happen this way.”

A wideout and cornerback who also played wildcat QB, Hooker scored 11 times last season. He had 13 catches for 324 yards and five TDs. Buffalo wants him to play cornerback. Pitt, Temple and South Florida also have shown interest.

“At this point, I'm getting a lot of letters,” he said.

When O'Brien visited, recruiting rules prevented him from speaking with Hooker at that time, Blundo said. During his stop, though, O'Brien talked with Blundo, an assistant principal.

“O'Brien said: ‘We love him,'” said Blundo, who wasn't surprised. “When you watch Malik, his natural instincts are so special. You can just see that he's really, really good at both sports.”

Eventually, that could force Hooker to make a decision between the two.

“I'm just going to stick out the rest of this (school) year and see what happens going into next year,” he said. “Then I'm going to have to sit down with my family and those close to me and decide what I want to do.”

— Chris Harlan

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