By David Carrillo Peñaloza
[reprinted with permission]
Sailors senior says there’s a lot riding on all-star game because it might lead to a shot to play for UCLA.
Kyle Caldwell hasn’t played much basketball lately. Just twice since Newport Harbor High’s season ended in February.
Caldwell’s been busy with volleyball, the sport in which many consider the versatile player to be the top high school senior in the country.
But right now basketball occupies his mind. Four days after being named MVP of the Santa Barbara/Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions, all he cares about is another basketball game.
There is one today. This isn’t just another game to the 6-foot-9, 225-pounder. Sure it’s an all-star event, but in all levels, from high school to the pros, all-star games aren’t always taken as seriously. They’re mostly fun, not much defense is played, just a lot of scoring.
Caldwell is hoping to score more than points today at the 43rd annual Kiwanis/PlyoCity Orange County All-Star festivities featuring his South team against the North in the boys’ big schools game at Ocean View High at 8:15 p.m.
“I’m approaching this like a real game because of the possibility of being able to play basketball at UCLA next year,” Caldwell said. “There’s a lot riding in this game.”
Caldwell’s future hangs in the balance.
A volleyball scholarship already awaits the setter at UCLA. The idea of a basketball one has him intrigued.
Caldwell’s late grandfather George Yardley played college basketball at Stanford, where he was an All-American, and later a prolific scorer in the NBA, becoming the first player to score 2,000 points in a season in 1957-58.
“That has a little to do with it,” Caldwell said of being influenced by his grandfather, a six-time All-Star and Hall of Famer. “I’ll walk on if I have to because it doesn’t get any better than UCLA when it comes to athletics.”
Especially in basketball and volleyball, two storied programs. Both with the most NCAA titles won in their respective sports, 11 for basketball and 19 for volleyball.
Caldwell wants to play for each next season.
The basketball and volleyball seasons overlap, making it tough to juggle both sports. But Caldwell said legendary volleyball coach Al Scates is fine with him playing basketball and volleyball if the Bruins court him for basketball.
The coach in charge of Caldwell’s South All-Stars is Ryan Schachter of Corona del Mar. Schachter said UCLA assistant coach Scott Garson is interested in Caldwell, a co-player of the year in the Sunset League and Newport-Mesa Dream Team.
“Scott definitely wants to look at a copy of the [game’s] video and see what he’s all about,” said Schachter, referring to Caldwell, who averaged 21.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game this past season. “I’ve known Scott since my [assistant coaching] days at Santa Barbara High, and with UCLA losing [6-10 freshman center] Kevin Love, a possible top-10 pick [in the NBA Draft], [6-9 senior backup Lorenzo] Mata-Real to graduation, and now [6-8 junior forward] Luc Richard [Mbah a Moute] declaring for the draft, the Bruins are in need of big men.
“UCLA always goes after high-character guys and guys who work hard. They’re not always the most talented, but they’re really good. I wouldn’t be surprised if Caldwell’s playing basketball at UCLA.”
Like many of the players in the showcase game, which will include two CdM seniors, 6-9 center Stefan Kaluz, bound for Brown University, and 6-6 forward Joe Eberhard, Caldwell has missed his share of practice time due to other commitments.
Schachter has seen Caldwell enough the past two years, coaching against him in the Battle of the Bay, to understand what he brings to the court. The ability to shoot from the outside and also pass well for a big guy stand out obviously, garnering the attention from some solid basketball programs like Washington State, UC Santa Barbara, Princeton and Southern Methodist University.
But it’s his persona that has Schachter raving about Caldwell. It’s another reason why Schachter can see Caldwell playing for Coach Ben Howland, who recently guided the Bruins to their third straight Final Four appearance.
“The guy just gets after it,” Schachter said of Caldwell, a second-team Division I-A selection by the Southern California Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Assn.
Schachter coached a UCLA-bound two-sport athlete in Matt McKinney on an AAU basketball program in the Santa Barbara area before moving here.
“Their games differed,” said Schachter, comparing McKinney to Caldwell. “Matt was like the No. 2-rated high school volleyball player when he was at Santa Ynez in 2002. He was about 6-8, stronger, thicker, more of a post player than Caldwell. He got a shot to be on both the volleyball and basketball teams at UCLA before injuries caught up to him. I think Kyle has a good shot to do the same.
“He’s been to one practice so far and he was a little rusty at first. Still, he showed a lot of skill and trust me we have a lot of talent on our team like [Santa Margarita’s] Klay Thompson, who’s going to Washington State and was the [CIF State Division III] Player of the Year. But for a guy to pick up the basketball after not doing so for a couple of months and to keep up with the rest of the guys who have been playing basketball since the season ended says a lot about Caldwell’s abilities.”
(photo credit: Daily Pilot)
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