Fans of the three Montgomery County high schools watched helplessly as their Boys’ basketball teams ended their campaigns recently. The season, which began with great promise in November, came to an abrupt halt in the Sectional round of the state tournament. Nevertheless, the 2016-17 season will be remembered for special highlights.
Amid the team accomplishments this year, three Montgomery County athletes set remarkable individual marks. Caleb Randolph of North Montgomery, and Southmont stars Cam Chadd and Kaleb Swick each scored their 1,000th career point, making this the first time in county history that three basketball players surpassed that threshold in a single season.
Caleb Randolph
Randolph was the first to accomplish the feat with the first of two made free throws against Western Boone in the consolation game of the Sugar Creek Classic. Randolph led the Chargers in scoring for the season, becoming only the fourth Chargers player to reach the milestone.
It was fitting that the senior got his breakthrough points from the free throw line. Randolph’s inventory includes far more than jump shots.
“Caleb can score in all the different phases that you need — driving, shooting threes, mid-range, posting up, free throws,” said Chargers’ head coach Eric Danforth, who inherited his versatile guard in this his first season at the helm.
“I really just wanted to be the most well-rounded player,” Randolph confessed. “Whatever that took, that’s what I was going to work on. The shooting just came naturally from being pretty much an offensive focused guy. It just kind of fell into place with everything else.
“My whole family was always a basketball family. Watching my two older brothers — Clayton and Owen — shooting around, and working on their ball-handling. My parents put a ball in my hands when I was two years old, and I just remember mimicking everything they did, to see if I could do it as good as they did.
“I kind of saw their games, and took bits and pieces, and then kinda found my own way. The game came to me naturally, but we all had our separate ways of playing the game.”
Randolph draws more than basketball from the family well, and credits his parents for keeping him straight on the path. “My parents definitely were a great factor, making sure I got my grades, and helping me stay on top of everything while I was working on my basketball.”
The senior also credits the opportunities that AAU basketball opened up for him. “I played “travel AAU” for a long time, and had a lot really good coaches along the way. I had an AAU coach just this year that had a big influence on me.”
As a result of all that early exposure to basketball, Randolph’s game is far more that just being a great shooter. “Right about fourth or fifth grade,” recalled Randolph, “I started to realize that if I keep working, I can take this where I want to go. I was always a good ball-handler even in the younger grades.”
Like an orchestra’s conductor, the 6’0” point guard understands that his job is to know the repertoire of each player on the floor, keeping his team focused on the same goal. His leadership talents allow Danforth to trust the team to his care — a role the senior relishes.
“It is always a cool feeling having those younger guys looking up to you,” said Randolph. “When they see things going badly on the court, and you look them in the eyes, and you can tell that they trust you, it is a pretty cool feeling. There’s a bond created — a belief that we can really pull this out.”
To begin this season, Randolph was aware that he was approaching 1,000 points. Danforth, however, contends that it takes more than just having your goal in sight to achieve it.
“For it to happen, there has to be a little bit of fever take hold,” said the coach. “You watch someone else do it — like a D. J. Byrd. You add your own personal drive, plus seeing others, makes you work extra hard. You have to have that personal drive to excel, and then try to match that of others.”
Or, it might be better described as Danforth does this way: “I’ve seen it come over Caleb’s face, It’s that look that ‘I’m not going to let us lose.’”
Camden Chadd
Like Randolph, Southmont’s Cam Chadd saw an inevitability in reaching 1,000 points this year. “Yes, it was a personal goal. I knew I’d probably get it this year, later in the year. I wasn’t going to get caught up in getting it, though,” Chadd brushed aside.
What adds to the scope of his achievement is that Chadd reached the milestone in only his Junior year. Chadd is a much quicker shooter, and he’s added range to his shot, specializing in the step-back jumper.
“I always like to have a complete game, but yes. I’ve always focused on being a shooter, most definitely,” he said, “I just feel like that’s the most important part of the game.”
In addition to achieving the career mark, Chadd also broke the single game Southmont scoring record, hurling in 41 points against Seeger. The team’s response to the effort was a moment head coach Jon Sparks feels drew his club even closer.
“You could see against Seeger in mid-season, when Cam had a chance to break the school’s all-time scoring record, the guys were feeding him and setting screens for him.” said Sparks, recalling the unselfishness of his ball club.
“I feel really comfortable with these guys. We’re all pretty much juniors, so we’ve grown pretty close in the last three years,” said Chadd, adding that he was thankful that both accomplishments were shared with his father, Dan Chadd, a long-time coach in the Southmont system, and current Assistant Coach for the Mounties.
“My Dad brought the game to me — always pushed me. We’d shoot around a lot,” said the younger Chadd, who now also shoots around with two younger brothers. “Dad always took me to the gym anytime I wanted to go.”
Chadd also credits two former Southmont players — two fellow members of the 1,000 point club — with helping to define his game. “Growing up, two of the biggest influences on me were Austin Burton and Devin Burton. Tyler Price, too,” recounted the 6’1” playmaker. “I just loved watching those guys shoot.”
For Chadd, realizing that he can play at an elite level came early in his sophomore season. “My game against Seeger, I had probably my best game. I think I had thirty-eight points. I just realized then that I could be a scorer.”
Entering his senior season, Chadd is now ready to take the leadership reigns, acknowledging that the first goal is replacing fellow 1,000 point scorer Kaleb Swick’s production in the lineup.
“I don’t think my roll will change that much [my senior year]. We are going to get better over the summer,” predicted Chadd. “Some guys will step up, and take up the scoring we’ve lost with Swick’s absence. We’re really going to miss his scoring, rebounding — everything. But, I don’t think my role will change that much.”
Change or not, Chadd has the opportunity to climb the Southmont and Montgomery County scoring list to a lofty perch by the end of his senior season.
Kaleb Swick
If the 1,000 point target was clear during the career’s of Randolph and Chadd, the view for Kaleb Swick was a bit foggier. The 6’5” power forward wasn’t expecting to add his name to the history books, until the target appeared on the horizon after his Junior year.
“Before this season started, Coach Sparks and I were talking, and he basically made it a goal for me. He’d like for me to get to that. I kind of felt pressured to get it, after that, being a four year varsity player. I felt it was something that I was supposed to achieve,” said Swick.
“Honestly, I was more of a football kid growing up, until I got into high school. Playing for AAU (Amateur Athletic Union amateur sports), making those connections — those coaching connections –– really changed my mind around.”
Adding to the drama was the fact that it took twenty-two regular season games to accomplish the 1,000 point feat. By season’s end, the entire Mounties’ squad was working to get Swick his points.
“Oh, man,” beamed Southmont head coach Jon Sparks, “the film from Rockville of our bench just exploding in pure joy for Swick was a lot of fun. We knew that it was a four year endeavor for him, and he’d been working really hard.
“To get it in the last game of the regular season … well, it made the timeouts fun, the recognitions fun. Our team really enjoyed that.”
“[Pressure] pushes me to excel.” said Swick. “It makes it feel like my teammates are on my back. They are relying on me to come through.”
Swick’s teammates did indeed rely on him this year — relied on him a lot. Because, in addition to 1,000 points, Swick hauled down his 500th career rebound, in spite of his relative lack of size under the boards. The combination is difficult for a high school athlete to complete in a varsity career, and shows the senior’s commitment to being a total player.
“This is the first time since I’ve been here,” observed Sparks, “that we’ve had a player average a double-double. It’s not easy to do. That combination is really huge. Missing those rebounds next year … we’ll have to find someone to step up to do that for us.”
No one attains this level of achievement without strong support, and Swick credits his family. “My Dad [Daryl] loved basketball. He’s the driving force in my career. He got me started early, playing at the Boys & Girls Club,” said Swick. “My Papaw Roger [Gibson], too. He drove me to nearly every single practice. He’s a big part of this, too.”
“I came in my first varsity game against North Montgomery in the Sugar Creek Classic. I was very nervous to go out and play my first real varsity minutes. I came into the game and got two blocked shots just as soon as I came in. It made me realize that I could play at that [high] level.”
And Swick will extend his growth into his college years, recently announcing his intentions to continue his basketball career at Trine University in northeast Indiana. Caleb Randolph is still weighing the college scholarship offers, and a decision will be forthcoming.
Chadd, of course, continues to add to his accomplishments in high school, and currently plans to forego playing sports this spring in favor of working even harder on his basketball game.
As the players move on, their legacy at their respective schools — their stamp on their programs — will remain, to the delight of their coaches.
“There is just a joy in seeing these players be successful,” said Sparks. “These guys are unselfish, and they work really hard, and the team recognizes that.”
“It should make others better,” concurred Danforth, “because they see a guy that has worked hard to get to where he is, accomplishing this. Others think, ‘Okay, I want to do this. I need to work this hard. I need to get better in all these phases.’ It’s because they see these players do it.”
In light of an uneven season in Montgomery County basketball this year, fans should still find great satisfaction in the achievements of these three players. They leave enduring marks with more yet to come.
Or, as Caleb Randolph puts it, “These are good times.”