Best friends, four-sport teammates lead Chariton's charge

John Naughton
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Chariton juniors Daric Laing (left) and T.J. Hockenson are teammates in four sports in addition to being best friends.

CHARITON, Ia. -- T.J. Hockenson and Daric Laing seem inseparable. When you're teammates in four sports, best friends and neighbors, that's going to happen. The juniors live a block apart. They act like brothers.

"We're with each other pretty much 24/7," Hockenson said.

Hockenson, who is 6-foot-6, averages 23.8 points for the Chargers' basketball team. Laing, a 6-2 guard, is scoring 21.5.

No other Iowa boys' basketball team has two 20-point scorers.

The players both hit 1,000 career points in consecutive games earlier this month. That's a feat no Chariton athlete in school history had previously accomplished.

There's no jealousy between them, or among their teammates, who unselfishly have helped compile a 9-4 record.

"Neither one is worried about being better than the other one," Chariton coach Ben Schooley said.

The two have been close since Hockenson arrived in town in the sixth grade.

"We had a lot of the same interests," Laing said. "We were both competitive and both loved sports."

They're teammates in football, basketball, track and golf.

A year ago, Chariton reached the state tournament for the first time since 1972. The Chargers lost to eventual Class 3-A champ Dubuque Wahlert in a quarterfinal.

That enthusiasm for the sport has continued this season.

"When you haven't been there in 42 years, then it's going to be a pretty big deal," Schooley said.

The competitive nature between the athletes can bring out some physical play, too.

"They'll squabble in practice," Schooley said. "It's a tight bond that's similar to a family."

It's uncertain if they'll be teammates beyond high school. But the desire is there.

"We've always said when we were younger that we wanted to play at the same college," said Hockenson, who is a two-time all-state football receiver.

The boys say they're appreciative of their teammates, coaches and families.

And each other, too.

"When we're playing a game, I don't think there's anybody I'd rather play with," Laing said.



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