Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson remembers the first time that Caleb Furst walked into the gym as a freshman.
The size was there (for a ninth grader), as was the pure basketball skill set.
Both have grown over the years. Furst now towers at 6-foot-9, while his hoops acumen has expanded exponentially – thrusting himself into the spotlight as a four-star player headed to Purdue and the honor of wearing the No. 1 jersey as the 2021 Indiana Mr. Basketball.
But one thing hasn’t changed from that day four years ago – Furst as a person.
“He is different in the ways you would like to see change, from a maturity standpoint and obviously his skills,” Davidson said. “But in a lot of areas he hasn’t changed. He is still a very humble, happy-go-lucky kid that loves the game of basketball.”
In a world of egos and fantastical expectations thrust upon top high school athletes, Furst is as grounded as they come. While his on-court exploits are exemplary, it is the all-around package – basketball, personality, approachable, appreciative – that makes Furst an easy choice as the Outside the Huddle 2020-2021 Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“I guess it is something that my parents instilled in me from a young age,” said Furst when asked about his ability to stay grounded. “Coach Davidson continued to support that throughout high school.”
Furst’s star was clearly on the rise even early on in his prep career. He was rated ninth in the country by Future150.com entering his freshman year. By the time he was a sophomore, he averaged 18 points and nine assists a contest as the Braves won a Class A state championship.
Now a Boilermaker (he will move in at West Lafayette in mid-June), Furst is coming off a campaign in which he helped Blackhawk Christian wins its second state title (this one in Class 2A) while averaging 21 points and 14 rebounds. They became the first program to ever win state titles in two different classes in back to back seasons – of course, not counting the COVID shortened 2020.
The stats could have been gaudier over the years, but Furst was surrounded by talent. Davidson has turned a sleepy 1A school into a boys basketball powerhouse and now even one at the 2A level due to success factor. Furst has been the foundation of that over the last four years, but neither player or team reach the heights they have over the last few years without the likes of Frankie and Marcus Davidson, Zane Burke and others.
“The biggest thing I have been taught at Blackhawk Christian is the selflessness, both on and off the court,” Furst said. “Basketball is a team sport, and Coach Davidson has preached it to us.”
Being taught is one thing, buying into the concept is another. Furst bought in. He improved in basketball, but he has remained the same person underneath.
Coach Davidson directs the Future Braves program at Blackhawk Christian that looks to lay the foundational values of what it takes to succeed in high school, both inside and outside of athletics. Furst has been a regular guest to assist the the kids in grades 2 and 3.
“Caleb talks to anybody, it is kind of a unique gift of being able to connect to people of all ages,” Davidson said. “When our first graders hear that Caleb is talking to the second and third graders, they ask when they can have Caleb come visit them.”
The impact of Furst on the Blackhawk Christian community has been great. On the court, he leaves with no less than 10 program records – everything from most career points (2,067) and wins (100) to the most career and single-season dunks (193 and 68, respectively).
As a senior, Furst had no equal. Teams tried various ways to contain him, from collapsing defensively to trying to deny entry passes. But his versatility has grown as his height has. He can step out and hit a jumper. He can make an off-ball baseline move to free himself. He can finish in traffic. It’s that entire package that Purdue coach Matt Painter fell in love with. Painter was the first to enter the Furst sweepstakes and he and the staff put in the most work to land him.
Looking ahead, Furst doesn’t know what to expect in terms of his role with the Boilermakers. Will he be thrust into a major role from the outset? Will he be a pure post? Will he fit a stretch-four role with talent that allows him to thrive away from the bucket?
Changes are definitely in store. Furst will become stronger, quicker and more capable of handling the Big Ten game.
But Furst himself will not change. As the spotlight grew brighter over four years at Blackhawk Christian, the 2021 Indiana Mr. Basketball stayed true to himself, never deviating or adjusting his personality.
That is what truly makes Caleb Furst special.