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Posted On: 08/22/18 5:00 AM
Usually sophomore season means getting experience at the varsity level, if you’re lucky enough to evade junior varsity. For others it’s just a relief to be more comfortable with the academics-sports balance. Or maybe it’s just one year closer to junior prom. But Kalen Etzler (2021), a 6’8” wing/forward, isn’t really a normal player at Convoy Crestview, nor is this supposed to be a typical year for the basketball team.
For one, this will be Etzler’s last year sharing the Crestview hallways with his older brother Javin, a 6’7” wing/forward heading to Miami (OH) next season. In turn, Kalen’s sophomore year is the time for these Knights to make a postseason run.
“Hopefully we can get this state ring this year because it’s probably going to be one of the last years in a while,” Kalen said.
Their 2019 class, Kalen says, is a once-in-a-decade collection of talent for a small program like Crestview. They even made waves last year by reaching a Regional Final with Kalen at less-than-100-percent because of stress fractures in his back.
“Being a freshman and going that far, it’s cool being through all that and it’s cool to talk about it. But obviously I was hurt last year,” Kalen said. “I played the last six games. I helped a lot in Districts. And then Regionals I just wasn’t there because of my experience.”
Growth spurts and his lack of stretching led to the back issues. He has since corrected his contribution to the problem, saying that he now “takes a lot of pride” in stretching before exercise.
With his back at 100 percent, Crestview will essentially gain All Ohio Red’s featured forward — a kid with a collegiate jump shot, good instincts, and defensive versatility. They can line him up at the 3, 4, or 5, but stretch 4 is his true calling card.
“I love playing the wing unless it comes down to handling the ball — I need to get a lot better at that. The 4 position you get to play out on the wing and do a little inside stuff. I’m not really muscular strong but I take a lot of pride in not getting scored on, so my defense pretty good.
“Playing the 4 is great because I love shooting the ball. Passing the ball is another strength of mine and then I love dunking obviously,” Kalen explained. He also points to decision-making as a strength.
Being a versatile 6’8” player at 16-years-old is special, but it definitely helps that he’s learning from an older brother with similar measurables. Kalen explained that the two have built obsessive daily workout habits.
“We always have been training together, my dad kind of pushed that onto us,” Kalen said. “We have to shoot every day or it bothers us too.
“He’s always been stronger than me — he’s like 30 more pounds than me — so it pushes me to guard bigger men. And he’s a shooter, he like never misses. So also, it teaches me to guard up on a guy … And I take a lot of pride of whenever we play one-on-one, I got to make sure I beat him,” Kalen remarked, clarifying that the last time he defeated Javin was the day before.
Javin is also equipping Kalen, a 3.83 GPA student, with recruiting process wisdom. With Bowling Green and Duquesne offers already on the table, a Purdue camp this weekend, then interest from Ohio State, Xavier, Miami (OH), Iowa, and other MAC schools, Kalen is thankful to have just seen the process from a third-person view.
“It’s definitely a blessing that I have an older brother. He’s kind of, you know, the test run,” Kalen said. “It’s helped me understand what colleges want to see, what I need to be working on for my position, and it’s given me the exposure I need because every time he gets invited to a camp I usually tag along.”
With that being said, Kalen will look to add size to his frame and develop a confident handle while becoming quicker with his first step.
His AAU coach is fielding most of the calls on his early recruitment, Kalen says. He’s hearing that Purdue, Ohio State, Xavier, and Miami are the most frequent inquirers.