Star power! Local prep products making their mark on the big stage
By RICK PETERSON
Most of the names are probably already familiar to anyone who follows local sports, but a long and growing list of athletes who call Topeka/Shawnee County home have made a big impact at the college and/or professional level.
Here's a look at just some of the stars who continue to make their hometown proud:
CARLY BACHELOR, Washburn Rural/Creighton -- Bachelor earned All-State recognition in basketball, volleyball and soccer at Washburn Rural, leading the Junior Blues to the Class 6A state basketball title and a runner-up state finish in soccer in her senior year (2019). A 6-foot guard/forward, Bachelor has gone on to carve out a successful basketball career for Creighton, which advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in 2021-2022 and is 6-0 this season. Bachelor is currently averaging 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the field and playing 27.5 minutes per game.
COREY BALLENTINE, Shawnee Heights/Washburn/Green Bay Packers -- A 5-11, 199-pound cornerback, the former Shawnee Heights and Washburn star was promoted from the Packers' practice squad to the active roster on Nov. 12 and has played in three games, recording two tackles and forcing a fumble. The fourth-year pro has played in 35 career regular-season games for the Giants, Jets, Lions and Packers, recording 48 tackles, including 38 solo stops.
ELIJAH BROOKS, Topeka West/North Dakota
A 6-4 freshman guard, Brooks was named Mr. Kansas Basketball as a senior at Topeka West, helping lead the Chargers to a second straight 5A state tournament berth and finishing his career as the Chargers' single-season and career scoring leader. Brooks has missed four games with injury/sickness but has started all four games that he's been available, averaging 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game. Brooks has helped the Fighting Hawks open the season 5-3 and North Dakota is only one win away from equaling last year's victory total in a 6-25 season.
DeSHAWN HANIKA, Hayden/Iowa State -- A 6-6, 238-pound junior tight end, Hanika played in all 12 games for 4-8 Iowa State this fall, catching 17 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns. Hanika, who helped Hayden win a state championship in basketball, caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in the Cyclones' final game of the regular season against TCU, which will play Kansas State for the Big 12 championship on Saturday.
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