As late as mid-November, Griffin Caldwell of the Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team wasn't sure he'd be part of the team this season.
But his play, combined with a season-ending injury to a possible starter, gave Golden Bears coach Tim Casey little choice -- and Caldwell hasn't made him regret it.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard's statistics haven't been gaudy, but he has filled a defensive role off the ball and provided an extra presence in starting every game for UA, which is 6-6 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Central Division heading into a game Friday, Jan. 18, at Thomas Worthington.
"I wasn't sure where I'd fit in because we lost so many seniors from last year," Caldwell said. "But when we started the season, I saw my playing time go up and I think I've been performing better and better. I just have to work hard. My teammates let me know what to do."
With junior guards Kevin Vannatta and Danny Hummer averaging 20.6 and 12.3 points, respectively, Caldwell's impact largely has been on the boards. He had season-highs of six points and six rebounds, including three offensive, in a 69-47 win over Vincent Warren Local in the Marietta Classic on Dec. 29, and had five rebounds in a 74-68 league win at Marysville on Jan. 4.
Caldwell's best all-around game statistically came Dec. 8, when he had four points, five steals, four assists and three rebounds in a 63-56 win over Dublin Jerome.
Junior Harrison Heath, who was expected to be a shooting guard capable of playing some inside, sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament during football season and will miss the entire basketball season. That opened a spot for Caldwell.
"He does pretty much anything we need him to," Hummer said. "He can shoot well. He can hold his own inside. He's been huge for us."
Caldwell, who took up basketball in sixth grade and played for Jones Middle School before splitting time between the freshman and junior varsity teams last season, appreciates his teammates' praise but largely shrugs it off.
"I'll do whatever I'm needed to do," Caldwell said. "I know I need to work on my shooting and just my offense in general. I'm working really hard defensively. I'm going to get better. It's just a matter of putting in the time."
Girls basketball team seeking consistency
Even before a 60-23 loss to Dublin Coffman on Jan. 11 dropped the girls basketball team to 4-4 in the OCC-Central, four games behind undefeated league leader Hilliard Davidson, coach Chris Savage lamented the Bears' offensive struggles.
"We're still trying to figure that out," Savage said. "We'll score 60 to 70 points one game, then the next game, it's 25 or 30. We know we can depend on (junior guard) Andi (Norman) to get 15 a lot of games.
"We have a few girls behind her who can score 10 or 15 per night, but we just haven't gotten that consistent second scorer yet."
UA opened the new year with two wins in as many days, defeating host Marysville 53-29 on Jan. 4 and Marion Harding 74-28 at home on Jan. 5.
Junior guard Annika Wachtman had 12 points and Norman scored 11 against Marysville, and freshman guard Kortney Eisenman had 19 points and nine rebounds to lead three scorers in double-figures against Harding. Norman added 11 points and junior guard Chiara Paradiso scored 10.
But those games were followed by a 39-36 loss to Westland on Jan. 8 and the loss to Coffman. Eisenman had a team-high six points against the Shamrocks.
"Kortney's starting to get a good feel of the level at which she has to play on varsity," Savage said. "I think she'll be a solid contributor the rest of the year."
Hockey team drops three league games
The meat of the Capital Hockey Conference schedule hasn't been kind to the hockey team.
The Bears lost three consecutive games this past weekend, falling to Jerome 2-1 on Jan. 11, Coffman 3-1 on Jan. 12 and Olentangy Liberty 3-0 on Jan. 13, to drop to 12-9-1 overall and 5-7-1 in the CHC-Red Division.
UA is fifth in the CHC-Red with 11 points, behind Liberty (10-0-1-1, 22 points), Jerome (9-1-2, 20), Cincinnati Moeller (8-3-0-1, 17) and Coffman (8-4, 16).
Freshman forward Danny Logan scored against Jerome and senior forward Derrick Galantowicz scored against Coffman.
The Bears play Troy on Sunday, Jan. 20, at OhioHealth Ice Haus before resuming league play Jan. 26 against DeSales at Chiller Dublin.