It’s big when a tall player does the little things.
And that is just what John Kaelin has been doing for the Southold High School boys basketball team.
“All the little things, getting on the floor, playing scrappy defense, trying to fight for rebounds,” coach Lucas Grigonis said. “It’s all those little things that don’t always make the headlines that John is very good at.”
And, here’s an added plus: points.
In Southold’s last two games, the 6-2 junior scored 10 points against Smithtown Christian in the Suffolk County Class CD game and 11 against Center Moriches in the Suffolk Class BCD game. The power forward said they were the two best games he has played in his rookie season for the First Settlers.
“It’s definitely helped with my confidence,” Kaelin said. “It showed me that I can go and compete on this level of play.
“I feel like I’m a well-rounded player who can play offense and defense, but I’m mostly relied on for defense, but these last couple of games I’ve kind of had to push into the offensive spectrum.”
Grigonis said: “It comes in spurts, but John just keeps working. I mean, that’s why we love him. He does what you need him to do as a teammate, and from a coach’s standpoint, I mean, what more can you ask for from a kid [than] just keep doing what’s asked of you and to do it to the best of your ability?
“He showed us a lot of potential on the JV level last year, and just knowing John, who he is as a character, we knew he was capable of this. We just needed him to just kind of come out of his shell.”
More play like that would come in handy for Southold in its Southeast Region Class C semifinal/Long Island final against East Rockaway March 10 at Centereach High School.
Any rebounds Kaelin pulls down are also appreciated by the guard-centric Southold team.
“He’s definitely playing really well right now,” point guard Cole Brigham said. “He seems like he’s comfortable on the court and he’s helping us out as a big man, especially since we’re a team that’s usually focused on guards and stuff. We don’t have a lot of big people. He’s been getting rebounds for us. He’s been a nice, steady scoring source for us.”
Earlier in the season, Kaelin had to contend with a shoulder injury and a virus. Now he seems to be getting into more of a comfort zone.
Asked about the last two games, he said: “I felt I played alright, but it’s not mostly about me, it’s about how the team performed and it’s about how we all did as a whole. If we lose as a team, we lose as a team. It’s not about how much someone scores.”
Grigonis, meanwhile, likes the whole package, points, rebounds and defense included.
“Next year when he’s a big senior, that’s what we’ll be expecting from him,” the coach said. “The last two games, he’s made that happen from just working hard throughout the game. He’s never too high or too low. His work rate is the same, and that’s admirable.”
A home away from home
Centereach High School is not Southold High School, but at this stage, that’s about as close to home as the First Settlers can expect.
Southold beat Smithtown Christian in the Suffolk Class CD game last month in Centereach, so the Settlers have a degree of familiarity with the court that will host the Long Island final.
“We know the court, we know the rims,” John Kaelin said. “We know what it is to play there and what the intensity of the gym is going to be like, but the intensity is going to keep rising the more and more we go on. For each game the intensity is going to rise, the pressure is going to build.”
One final thought
Lucas Grigonis’ last high school game as a player was in 2005 when Southold lost to Friends Academy in a Long Island final. Grigonis said he hopes this coming Long Island final is “not eerily similar. I hope we get through that Long Island championship game.”