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story.lead_photo.caption TIMES photograph by Annette Beard Senior Blackhawk Wes Wales (No. 23) jumps to block a shot by a Prairie Grove player Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, during the Colors Day game. For his defensive efforts, Wales was named Nighthawk player of the game, according to coach Trent Loyd.

One of the "best defensive players to ever come through Pea Ridge," senior Wesley Wales, was named Nighthawk player of the game Friday, Feb. 7, for his defensive efforts in the win against the Prairie Grove Tigers on Colors Day.

His love affair with basketball began early. He said he began playing with the Pea Ridge Youth Competitive Basketball program in fourth grade.

"I just tried it out and fell in love with it," he said. He has two older sisters, one of whom, Anika Wales, 20, played for the Lady Blackhawks before graduating in 2018. He said he and his sisters often played basketball at home and his mother played basketball and volleyball when she was in school growing up in Alaska.

"She tells me to dribble better," he said, smiling, of advise from his mother.

"He's come a long way," coach Trent Loyd said. "I think Wes is one of the best defensive players to ever come through Pea Ridge. He's the best shot blocker, as far as having a knack for it, and has been since seventh grade."

A two-year starter, Wales was the sixth man his sophomore year, Loyd said, describing him as a center, a power forward.

Believing his strength lies in his effort, Wales said he never gives up on a play and is always trying to be there and help his fellow teammates.

Loyd said Wales used to get in foul trouble in junior high.

"He's done a good job of staying out of foul trouble," Loyd continued, "with only a couple of games where we had to keep him out to keep him in. I think Brandon Whatley and Mazon Harris have helped keep him out of foul trouble."

"He reads offense so well. He's great at timing. When he jumps, he jumps straight up," Loyd said of Wales.

At 6'5", Wales is one of the tallest players, but his ability to jump "off two feet" adds to his prowess.

"He can get it on the glass, above rim shots -- he can block really well.

"He's a big part of what makes our group good defensively," Loyd said. He said Blackhawk fans will realize next year, without Wales on the floor, his contribution to defense.

Wales has been working hard to improve his ball handling with his right hand as he's left handed.

"I think Wes worked his tail off on ball handling in the spring and fall. It's come a long way," Loyd said. "He's shooting about 50% from 3 as well. It makes him tough to guard since he can shoot with his right or his left hand. He's become a well rounded offensive player, as well."

Wales said his passion for the sport helps him in many ways in life, including providing a way to deflect problems when he's having a hard time in other areas.

"When times get hard, I can count on going to play basketball to cheer me up," he said. "I like to go out and do my own thing, sometimes, scrimmaging other people, working on my form."

He said he's learned a lot by watching Andre Iguodala who was traded to the Miami Heats recently. "He's not the most gifted player, but he always gave 100% and is a big role in success."

Wales also credits his team mates. "The team has contributed to me and are always knowing to look for me, to get the ball into my hands, we're constantly working together," he said.

"This group, they've gelled really well together. They play as one unit. There's no selfishness to them," Loyd said.

"They get excited for each other. It's been a really, really fun group. This is the best season we've enjoyed so far," he said.

Loyd concluded: "For Wes, he's been such a special player for us his entire career -- his passion, his work ethic.

"When your best player shows up ready to practice, ready to compete, every one else has to follow suit. He's been an inspiration not only to me, but the whole coaching staff as well. We're very proud of him."

Wes Wales, 18, is the son of Trafton and Sheryl Wales Bella Vista and Angelina Wales of Bentonville. He said he's been in Pea Ridge schools his entire life and grew up in Bella Vista. He works at Sonic in Bentonville and hopes to become a firefighter. He said he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Allisa Short.

Sports on 02/12/2020

Print Headline: Wales excels at defense

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