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Brea Olinda High's Kyle Caudill shows staying power

The 6-11 basketball star defied the expectations of many by not transferring to a traditional powerhouse. 'If you're good, the scouts will find out,' Caudill says.

January 20, 2011|Eric Sondheimer
  • Boston College-bound Kyle Caudill is averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds for Brea Olinda this season.
Boston College-bound Kyle Caudill is averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Watching 6-foot-11 Kyle Caudill walk barefoot into the Brea Olinda gymnasium at 6:45 a.m. last fall with a smile on his face for a workout with classmates helps explain why he refused to play the transfer game that has become so common in Southern California high school basketball.

He enjoys hanging out with friends he has known since kindergarten. He thrives in the classroom with a 4.1 grade-point average. Each season, his statistics and skills have improved, allowing him to receive a college scholarship.

And yet, there were many who lost bets that he'd never stay for four years at Brea, a school that doesn't win state championships in boys' basketball or attract attention as a perennial powerhouse.

"It was all about staying with my friends and having a good time in high school because that's what I think high school should be about, not going someplace you're not 100% comfortable and winning state championships," he said. "If you're good, the scouts will find out."

The scouts did find Caudill, who signed last November with Boston College and still has hopes of leading Brea to a Southern Section championship in his final season.

But in the shady world of prep basketball, where people sometimes offer false promises and make ridiculous claims, Caudill has found a way to prosper and sleep well at night.

He said that after his freshman year, when a new rule went into effect giving athletes the option of a one-time free transfer, the rumors of his imminent move reached epic proportions.

"It was real bad," he said. "People said I was going to Mater Dei, Servite, Findlay Prep. I stayed and some people lost some bets."

His coach, Bob Terry, heard the same rumors and could only hope for the best, checking every September if Caudill was still enrolled.

"I honestly was probably 50-50 thinking, 'Oh, he'll come back,' but I didn't worry about it," he said. "I'm a firm believer things happen for a reason. If he did transfer … we would keep doing the same thing we were doing.

"It was a recurring event. I'd get a call, 'Oh, I heard K.C.'s going to go here.' I'd say, 'Well, he knows where I stand.' I think it sends a message that if you're a good player, it doesn't matter what high school you go to. You're going to get noticed if you can play."

And it's not as if Brea has a losing program. The team has competed successfully at a high level for 16 seasons under Terry, but winning championships when facing the likes of Compton Dominguez in the playoffs is difficult. The team has struggled this month and is only 10-10 overall, but Caudill keeps trying to win with his friends. He's averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds.

In the end, Caudill has reaped benefits from his loyalty. He has lived in Brea all his life, and the friends he has made will be there for years to come. The school's strong academic reputation has prepared him for college. And his willingness to play on travel teams outside Brea exposed him to scouts and helped with his development.

"I'm a real blue-collar type of guy," he said. "I'm going to go in there and do the dirty work, and the skills will come with that. It's day in and day out, you have to work on it."

As for lessons learned, Caudill said, "I get to play at the highest level next year, and I'm staying here and graduating with all my friends who I've known since kindergarten. It's a win-win."

And Caudill can be used as an example by Terry and other coaches that being a home-grown product is worthy and appealing.

"I don't think most kids look at the big picture," Terry said. "A lot of these kids aren't going to play pro basketball. The kids transferring back and forth are always looking for something better, and that's not what life is about. I think it says a lot about K.C. as a person. He's trying to do something. He's kind of told kids, 'Hey, I'm going to do it with you. I want to go through this battle with you.'"

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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