Walking down the hallway at Columbus Christian School, a couple of elementary-aged girls turned their heads to focus on high school junior Dalane Shaull, who was trying to give an interview outside the school’s main office.
“Hiiiiii DAAAlane,” they said in unison with their voices rising in pitch. They proceeded to walk away, looking at each other and giggling as if they had just gotten an autograph from Justin Bieber.
Shaull, who starts on the school’s varsity basketball team, managed a smile and a wave.
The interaction was short, only a couple of seconds in length. Yet, it told a lot about Shaull, who is genuinely at home at the kindergarten through 12th-grade school with a total enrollment of 207 students.
The Dalane Shaull file
School: Columbus Christian
Size: 6-feet-½ inch
Statistics: 13.1 points, 3.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds per game
Team record: 16-6
Next game: Bloomington Lighthouse at Columbus Christian, 7:30 p.m. Friday
In terms of high school athletics, Columbus Christian might be competing in a very small pond, but it has been a golden pond to Shaull.
Upon entering ninth grade, he had those thoughts, brought up in conversations with his peers. The ones about attending the high school across the street, Columbus East.
“It crossed my mind,” said Shaull, who helped Columbus Christian to a second-place finish in the Indiana Christian Schools State Tournament a year ago. “I thought about going to East and playing for them. But, with the relationships I have, I thought it would be more fun to play here.”
Since the sixth grade, Shaull has played with fellow Crusaders Chris Noblitt, Nick Bridgewater and Austin Straub, who all currently are varsity starters. It was a couple of years later that Josh Miracle, also a starter for Columbus Christian, joined the fun.
“We all have a great relationship,” Shaull said. “It just works for us.
“I understand it. Over the past few years, when we were having our banquet, I listened to our past seniors say that it was hard to leave because it was like leaving a family. This is like a family. We’re all mean to each other, but in a joking way. We have a great relationship. It just works.”
Shaull talks with affection about his basketball family. He calls Noblitt, the Crusaders’ burly center, “Teddy Bear.”
“He definitely is a gentle giant,” Shaull said.
He then talked about his other teammates. “I always have looked up to Nick as a shooter, and Austin moves his body so well in all these situations. ... I don’t understand how he does it.
“We call Josh ‘Home Schooler’ because that is like an insult in itself. Every time he says something stupid, we blame it on that.”
Shaull doesn’t have to worry about being politically correct when teasing Miracle about his home-school background. It is the same kind of teasing that Shaull might hear about attending a small Christian school. Any jokes made among these friends are done with the best of intentions.
“Josh is great comic relief,” Shaull said. “He and Nick make most of the jokes.”
The way these Crusaders play basketball is not a joke. They have compiled a 16-6 record and again are one of the top Indiana Christian Schools teams in the state.
Shaull helps that effort by playing where needed, from guard to center.
“I don’t have a set position,” he said. “It all depends on the scouting of a team. If a team is bigger, I will play point guard.”
‘Decent shooter, little streaky’
At 6 feet and one-half inch tall, with the emphasis on the one-half, Shaull would be hard-pressed to be effective at forward if he were playing at a higher level. But among these small schools, his battles under the boards often have more to do with position than size.
“I’ve concentrated more this season on passing and rebounding,” he said. “It’s funny. Josh came up to me this season and said, ‘I didn’t know you could rebound.’ It’s just getting position. I’ve gotten used to doing it.”
Columbus Christian coach Kevin Roth loves Shaull’s attitude.
“Dalane plays hard all the time,” Roth said. “He is going to give you 100 percent, and he will do anything for you.
“And he has grown each year with his leadership. We can play him at forward because he is kind of a wide body, and he does a good job of shielding with his body.”
Offensively, Shaull has the ability to knock down jumpers from anywhere.
“I feel I am a decent shooter,” he said. “I am a little streaky.”
Being streaky is OK, because Miracle, Noblitt and Straub are scorers.
“We don’t necessarily have a star,” he said. “But we have four guys who can score in double figures. It keeps our opponents guessing.”
Since they have been together so long, they know when to feed the hot hand.
“I don’t have to think to know where my teammates are going to be,” he said.
He doesn’t think anymore about where he should be, either. Columbus Christian is his home.
‘Good Christian leader’
His basketball work is done in a school gym with a tile floor, as opposed to the wooden floors that Indiana High School Athletic Association teams use. Columbus Christian has started a fundraising drive toward buying a wooden floor, and although it is unlikely, Shaull said he dreams about the floor being constructed before his senior season.
Of course, there is that wooden floor in the gym across the street. Shaull never even has attended an East basketball game.
“Actually, I was thinking last night about wanting to play a game at East,” he said. “Even if we got our heads handed to us, it would be fun to play a high-caliber team.”
That probably won’t happen before Shaull graduates, but it’s OK. On Monday, he will follow his regular routine of donating his time to play with fourth- through sixth-graders during their recess.
“I love helping out when I can,” he said.
That might be his best attribute.
“He is a good Christian leader,” Roth said.
Ron Bridgewater, currently the Crusaders’ girls varsity coach and formerly the boys coach at the fifth- and sixth-grade levels, tells one of his favorite basketball stories about Shaull.
“We used to have a sixth-grade night where we could honor the kids playing their final elementary school game. That year, most of my starters were fifth-graders, Nick, Chris and Austin, and Dalane was the only sixth-grader who started. But we did have six sixth-graders on the team. So that night, I was going to start six players and get a technical foul on purpose. Dalane came to me and said, ‘Let the other guys start, they don’t get to play much,’ It was a pretty big moment, and that’s what he did. That shows leadership.”
That leadership quality is known throughout the hallways at Columbus Christian.
His interview finished, Shaull headed toward class. A couple of middle school students looked his way as he walked past.
They wanted to see a true celebrity.