Ask Caleb Furst to talk about himself and things get, well, awkward. The Blackhawk Christian junior isn’t one to sing his own praises. When asked about his abbreviated 2019-20 campaign […]
Ask Caleb Furst to talk about himself and things get, well, awkward.
The Blackhawk Christian junior isn’t one to sing his own praises. When asked about his abbreviated 2019-20 campaign that saw him lead the Braves in scoring (21.7 ppg) and rebounding (14.2 rpg) and third in assists (3.7 apg), Furst clams up, averts his eyes and struggles his way through an answer.
“I definitely feel like I improved from last year, that’s the goal to improve every year,” says Furst, oozing discomfort. “But it definitely had a lot to do with (Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson) and my teammates and the way they were able to give me opportunities to score and find me inside.”
Furst is most comfortable when he lets his play do the talking. To many, the Purdue commit’s game rose to another level this past season. So it was an easy choice to name Furst as 2019-20 Outside the Huddle Boys Basketball Co-Player of the Year.
Just how dominant was Furst for the Braves? Consider the stats.
He posted 20 double-doubles in 26 games.
He shot 66.8 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free throw line.
He had more offensive rebounds (80) than every other Blackhawk Christian player had defensive rebounds, with the exception of Zane Burke (80 defensive rebounds).
But stats can only tell so much of the story.
In mid-February, Blackhawk Christian and Snider clashed in a huge Allen County showdown. Furst went to work, dropping 16 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in an 18-point Braves victory. But it were the intangibles that stood out to Snider coach Jeremy Rauch.
“Caleb was the most dominant player we faced because of his impact beyond scoring, beyond stats,” Rauch said. “When he becomes the focal point of a defense, he’s skilled and smart to recognize who’s open, putting his teammates in great position to be successful.”
It is that unselfishness that makes Furst a truly great high school basketball player. He is not just a scorer, but also someone who can guard all five positions on defense while being able to corral a rebound and push the ball up the floor offensively.
“I’ve really made it a point to improve not just offensively but defensively as well,” Furst said. “Whether it was rebounding or blocking or altering shots. Offensively I tried to expand my range a little bit more, especially around the mid-range around and going out around the three-point line as well.”
Furst’s eagerness to challenge himself in other aspects of the game is refreshing. He is always seeking ways to improve, never afraid to make the uncomfortable feel right with hard work.
“I think his athleticism really improved,” Davidson said. “One thing that has factored in is that he finally stopped growing (vertically). That has allowed him to grow in his body, so to speak. He is more explosive, moving better, jumping better and running the floor better.”
At close to 6-foot-9, Furst may have another inch or two in him, but the days of large growth spurts are over. To Davidson’s point, Furst can now refine his skills and his game together with growing stronger.
With strength comes confidence, something that Furst played with a lot of throughout the season. Whereas in past years an entry pass deep in the post would see a touch of hesitancy, the junior displayed improved footwork, greater power and enhanced court awareness near the basket – whether it was finishing off a play with a thunderous dunk or passing to an open teammate as defensively collapsed on him.
“When he catches it deep, there is no chance to stop him,” Davidson said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean he is going to score, but he is going to choose the best option on whether to go up strong or make the extra pass.”
SAC champion Bishop Luers hosted Furst and Blackhawk Christian on Jan. 18. The Knights battled the Braves to the end, eventually falling 67-63. But Furst was a beast, amassing 25 points on 8-of-14 from the field and 9-of-10 from the line to go with 13 rebounds.
“Caleb was one of the strongest players in the post we faced this season,” Bishop Luers coach Fonso White said. “He made it tough on us because he demands a lot of attention. If you double-teamed him, he was able to find one of his teammates open. When he didn’t he was able to finish with an explosive move to the basket.”
Versatility is key in today’s basketball world, and Furst has embraced it. He is not a defensive liability no matter what position he is guarding. His ability to defend ball screens was a huge part of his effectiveness for the Braves, which goes back to his willingness to work hard and not bask in the glamorous aspects of the offensive game, instead electing to be the best two-way player he can be.
As Furst’s game reached new heights this past season, his ceiling is still not yet at its zenith. Without the distraction of recruiting, the plan is to continue to get better and better – refining, tinkering and growing to be at an even higher level for his senior campaign next winter.
He will do all that without an ounce of desire to be center stage.
“What sticks out to everybody is how humble of a kid he is,” Davidson said. “It is rare, especially today. Good basketball players at this level have a tendency to be self-consumed. Caleb is not like that at all. He tries to deflect the attention off of himself.”
This spring and summer will be unique. With the pandemic likely putting a halt to camps, AAU and summer shootouts, prep hoops players will have to be self-motivated to get better.
Wait, no spotlight on him or attention AND he gets to work on his game in relative silence? That’s right up Furst’s alley.
“Without AAU or being able to get together with other players, I just have to push myself to get better each and every day on my own,” Furst said.