BY SCOTT HUNT – firstname.lastname@example.org
Oak Hill’s Caleb Middlesworth didn’t have quite the junior season that he, his teammates and coach Kevin Renbarger had hoped.
The 6-foot-8 wing/post player suffered a serious ankle injury in New Castle against Louisville Waggener on Jan. 7 forcing him to the sidelines for much of the last two months of the 2016-17 season.
But Middlesworth started garnering attention for his skills long before that injury and Wednesday the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association showed how highly regarded the Golden Eagles’ standout is by making him part of the junior Indiana All-Stars that will play a pair of exhibition games against the senior Indiana All-Stars later this spring.
“It’s a pretty big day for Oak Hill basketball in general,” said Renbarger of Middlesworth’s selection.
“It’s a nice recognition for our basketball program and it continues to help get the name out on a state wide stage. And it’s and big step for Caleb. I felt like coming into the season, for him to a have any consideration to be a senior all-star he would have to at least be on one of the three units of the junior all-stars. Check that off as a goal accomplished. Now its in his hands to get himself out there and perform on the basketball floor.”
The IBCA put together three separate, six-player units of boys’ junior all-stars and Middlesworth earned a spot on the North group that will play against the senior Indiana All-Star team at Plainfield High School on June 8.
Joining Middlesworth on the North unit are: Johnny Bernard (6-3, G, Merrillville), Gavin Bizeau (6-10, C, Plainfield), Kevin Easley (6-5, F, Lawrence North), Walter Ellis (6-4, G, South Bend Adams) and Jamal Harris (6-2, G, Indianapolis Attucks).
A core group of junior all-stars, who will compete in the game at Plainfield as well as a June 6 affair in New Albany, will be joined by the six players from the North for the second game.
The core group is made up of: Damezi Anderson (6-6, F, South Bend Riley), Aaron Henry, 6-5, F, Ben Davis), Eric Hunter (6-3, G, Indianapolis Tindley), Mekhi Lairy (5-8, G, Evansville Bosse), Romeo Langford (6-5, G, New Albany) and Robert Phinisee (6-0, G, McCutcheon).
“I always make a list of what I want to accomplish for the offseason and (making junior all-stars) was a goal,” said Middlesworth.
“It shows all the work has paid off. We worked hard in the summer and Coach Renbarger always pushes us. I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful to everyone who has helped me.”
Middlesworth will see Renbarger’s familiar face sitting on the bench at Plainfield in June, as he, along with Barak Coolman from Valparaiso, will be assistant coaches with Castle’s Brian Gibson for both exhibition games.
“(Indiana All-Star director) Charlie Hall contacted me and asked if I would be interested in helping out and obviously it’s one of those things that you really don’t have to think about it a whole lot,” Renbarger said.
“It’s an honor to be associated with the Indiana All-Star program. It’s an accomplishment and something that I’m honored to do. I think it reflects the success and stability of the (Oak Hill) basketball program as a whole. It’s an honor without a doubt.”
Middlesworth was averaging nearly a double-double (18 points, nine rebounds) when he was injured, returned for Oak Hill’s last two games in the regular season and both sectional contests, but was nowhere close to 100 percent healthy.
Renbarger said the timing of Middlesworth’s injury was awful as it pertained to the Golden Eagles season, and that they both may have pushed too hard to get him back on the floor before season’s end.
Middlesworth said Wednesday afternoon that he’s really close to being back to 100 percent and is ready to get going for Oak Hill’s baseball team, as well as summer basketball with his school mates and AAU basketball with the Indy Hoosiers in the Under Armor division.
Renbarger is excited for what Middlesworth’s future holds, not just in his senior season at Oak Hill, but also potentially at the next level.
“With us, he’s just scratched the surface. He was getting into a pretty good groove and then he goes down with an ankle injury,” Renbarger said.
“He was on a team last year that featured seven seniors so he took a backseat there. It’s just been a rough ride for him for us.”
“I think the sky is the limit, he’s a prototypical stretch four, I think,” he continued. “He can go inside and play the post position for us, but he’s a 40 to 43 percent three-point shooter and a 80 percent foul shooter. (College coaches) see him as a guy who can go out and be featured in some of the pick and rolls that you see at the college level. He’ll be able to pop and turn and hit that three-point shot and be able to put the ball on the ground a little bit.”
Renbarger also thinks, with good play in the summer and next season, Middlesworth could be an Indiana All-Star at next year’s conclusion.
Many of the top juniors in the state fill guard positions and Renbarger thinks that may open the door for Middlesworth to earn a spot.
“He’s in a good position with that moving forward as well,” Renbarger said.
“This junior class is exceptionally heavy with talented guards. He’s just one of two people 6-8 and above on that (18-man junior) squad. It may bode well if he goes out and has a really good AAU season this summer and plays to his level and capability next season for us. He could have a strong case to be an Indiana All-Star.”