Hawks’ Balderas headed to Briar Cliff to play hoops

Senior point guard fits up-tempo system, plans to study business

South Hamilton senior Marco Balderas (2) drives into the lane and puts up a shot against Roland-Story during a December game in Jewell. Balderas announced last week that he’ll play college basketball at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

JEWELL — Nathan Hill calls him a basketball junkie, and it’s that devotion to the game that has carried him to hallowed status inside the South Hamilton program.

Marco Balderas lives and breathes the game. He always has. And now he’s reaping the rewards.

Balderas, a 5-foot-7 senior point guard for the Hawks, announced late last week that he has accepted a basketball scholarship at Briar Cliff University, a NAIA Division II school located in Sioux City. He’ll enroll as a business major in the fall.

Balderas chose Briar Cliff over Iowa Wesleyan, Central College and Iowa Central Community College. He follows in the recent footsteps of former area players Brett Ratcliff of Webster City, and Clay Harreld and Derek Mechaelsen of Northeast Hamilton who had sterling basketball careers at Briar Cliff.

Hill, in his fourth year as the head coach at South Hamilton, is ecstatic for his four-year starter and says Balderas’s commitment to his craft is what propelled him towards a scholarship.

“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Hill said. “He’s been a basketball guru since he was a little kid and he’s put in the time. He’s totally lived and breathed basketball and has played purely for the joy of the game.”

Briar Cliff seems like the perfect fit for Balderas. The Chargers like to push the pace, something Balderas is quite accustomed to from his time at South Hamilton.

“Being at a basketball game and practices, and getting to know the players and coaches, it just seemed to be a good fit for me,” Balderas said. “They like to push it ahead and that’s what I like to do a lot, too. Plus, I’m going into business and I really liked their program there.”

For his prep career, Balderas has averaged 10.8 points per game and currently ranks second all-time in assists with 346 and third in steals with 151. He sits just 34 assists away from passing the record of 379 held by Sam Koehnk. He probably can’t catch Mark LeMaster’s steals school record of 190, but he needs just 11 more thefts to move past Collin Hill and into second place.

Balderas entered last night’s game against Saydel with 839 career points.

The leader of the Hawks’ current unbeaten team, Balderas is averaging a team-best 14.9 points per game this season. But it’s all of the intangibles that he brings that make him the player he is, Hill says.

“He’s been a good teammate and he’ll take that to the next level and he’ll make his team better,” Hill said. “The coaches that have talked to me, the No. 1 thing they all say is the kid is a winner and he makes his teammates better. That’s probably the biggest compliment you can get as a point guard.”

Balderas says he’s excited about his future, but there are things he hopes to accomplish before he leaves for Sioux City. At the top of his to-do list is helping South Hamilton get back to the Class 2A state tournament this winter. The Hawks qualified a season ago, but were knocked off by eventual state champion Western Christian in the quarterfinal round.

“It feels good just knowing where I will be playing college ball and to get that off my shoulders so that I can focus on the last part of the season,” he said. “I want to concentrate on finishing high school right and doing what we need to do.”