Big Walnut Roundup: Confident Caleb Conard raises level of play for boys basketball team

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Big Walnut senior Caleb Conard said a change in mindset has boosted his confidence and helped him improve his game. He was averaging 11 points through nine games after averaging 6.3 points last season.

Caleb Conard of the Big Walnut boys basketball team remembers when he would worry about taking a shot.

The senior used to be timid with the ball in his hands.

“I’d have an open shot, but I didn’t know if I had the confidence to take it,” he said. “But my whole mindset has changed this year.”

Conard, a 6-foot-7 wing player/forward, has become a scoring threat who can post up inside, pull up for a jump shot and knock down 3-pointers.

Through nine games, he was averaging 11 points, up from 6.3 as a junior when he was a part-time starter. He was shooting 45% from the field and averaging 4.6 rebounds and two blocks.

Guard Jagger Barnett was the only other player scoring in double figures (12.9) for the Golden Eagles, who were 5-5 overall after losing to Hilliard Darby 57-45 on Jan. 26.

“Caleb has a really high ceiling,” said coach Brett Bartlett, whose team also was 2-2 in the OCC-Capital Division. “He’s definitely confident and likes to score when he touches the ball. He can pretty much score from anywhere on the floor, which can create some pretty tough matchups for teams.”

But that wasn’t the case last season, when Bartlett needed to provide Conard with plenty of reassurance.

“I told him, ‘Every time you take a shot, you should think it’s going in.’ Just that mindset that, ‘I’m open, and I’m going to knock this shot down,’ ” Bartlett said. “If you miss, you just have to forget about it.”

Since then, a lot has changed.

During the offseason, Conard linked up with former NFL and Ohio State defensive back Donald Washington III, who began to work with Conard not only on his quickness and footwork but also his strength and playing through contact.

The two were introduced through Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, who is married to Conard’s sister, Kara.  

“(Washington) really worked that confidence into me,” Conard said. “Even after workouts, we’d shoot around, and he’d make me do certain things, like make a certain number of shots. He’d play against me and really build up my confidence.”

Over the summer, his AAU coach also made it easier for him to get comfortable with his shot by “green-lighting everything,” Conard said.

College recruiters also have noticed his increased scoring ability. Conard has offers from Division II and Division III programs.

“At the collegiate level with a 30-second shot clock, teams try to get out and run before the defense gets set up,” Bartlett said. “They really guard in the half court, so Caleb’s game suits that style of play that the college game is leaning toward.”

Another option is a junior college or prep school, which does not count against college eligibility, before transferring to a small Division I program, Conard said.

“I’m a late developer,” he said. “I’m still not to the point where I’m filling out, but I want to go to a school that fits.”

Boys bowlers 

bounce back

After back-to-back losses, the boys bowling team earned a 2,175-1,802 win over Morral Ridgedale on Jan. 25. 

Aidan Furukawa led the way with a match-high 431 series, with games of 215 and 216, followed by Nick Green (183, 224).

The Golden Eagles were 5-7 overall and 3-6 in the COHSBC-A before facing Olentangy Liberty on Jan. 27.

The girls team, which was 9-3 overall and 5-2 in the COHSBC-A before facing Liberty, lost 1,954-1,709 to Ridgedale. Ashleigh Westervelt had the match-high series (350) and match-high game (191).

The boys and girls teams close out the regular season against Olentangy on Feb. 1 and Worthington Kilbourne on Feb. 2, both at Capri Lanes.

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