Basketball: Kaileb Rodriguez driven to take game to another level before arriving at Cal

Kaileb Rodriguez said committing to Cal a couple weeks ago has only boosted his confidence and motivation.

I talked on the phone with the 6-foot-9 junior forward from ThunderRidge High in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, Colo., and he told me he chose Cal over Nevada and USF after making an unofficial campus visit with his parents during spring break.

“I liked everything about it,” Rodriguez said. “I’d never been to Berkeley.  Walking through and seeing the magnitude of the campus and all the facilities was great.

“To be honest, the biggest selling point was Mike Montgomery. He’s such a prestigious bigs coach. They showed me a lot of clips of different big guys. It was everything I’ve been looking for.

“Throughout high school, I got the ball a lot, but not as much as I wanted. It seems all they do is run their offense through their 4-5.”

The prospect has Rodriguez pushing himself to a different level. 

“Once I committed, it really boosted my confidence,” he said. “I felt like now I have something to practice even harder f0r every single day in practice.”

ThunderRidge coach Joe Ortiz said Rodriguez played extremely well in a recent spring tournament victory over the Double Pump Elite team in Denver.

“Kaileb was the best player,” Ortiz said. “He just has so much promise. His game is just changing.  He has high promise. He’s not a realized player. He’s not there yet. He’s just finishing his junior year. There’s a long time before he plays for the Bears.

“His game is so mental and getting stronger. We’re seeing a little bit of creativity and ability to finish. He’s long and he’s’ athletic. He’s made tremendous progress through his career.”

Ortiz said Rodriguez averaged about 10 points and seven rebounds for ThunderRidge, adding those numbers are skewed by the fact the team plays a slow-paced style and averaged just 50 points per game.

Cal assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb first saw Rodriguez play last summer and showed consistent interest thereatfer, Ortiz said. Other schools, including Gonzaga and Colorado, were beginning to recruit Rodriguez more seriously when he committed to Cal.

“I could tell the interest level between somebody who sends you a letter and somebody who’s at your practice,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has grown from about 175 pounds as a sophomore to just under 200. Ortiz believes he could be 6-10, 220 by the time he arrives in Berkeley. He’s the key player in a program that has played in Colorado state championship games five times in the past 10 seasons.

Rodriguez understands his game needs much improvement. 

“My strengths are probably finishing around the basket,” he said. “I’m still working on getting stronger. That comes with time. I feel like once I get to Cal I’ll put on some pounds.

“Obviously you can always work on your mental game, getting better at not letting things bug you. I definitely have to work on my rebounding, getting balls above the rim.”

Rodriguez won’t arrive at Cal until the fall of 2012. By then, home-state school Colorado will be entering its second season in the Pac-12 Conference.

“To be honest with you, that was an extremly big part of my decision,” he said. “I always said I wanted to go to a big conference, and Cal will be playing CU every year.”

Jeff Faraudo

  • takeoffthatREDSHIRT

    great article. very excited about his commitment.

    Kaileb – if you read these sites: please ignore the reaction of people like SteveNTex. They don’t speak for even the minority of Cal fans, and they are not the people who will at Haas cheering you on when you are all-conference.

    Go Bears.

  • jeh

    Monty clearly knows a great deal about basketball and in particular developing big guys. The fact that he wanted Kaileb so early speaks for itself and likely means that we shall see a great career from Kaileb in his years at Cal.

  • SteveNTexas

    From Rivals.com

    “California: If Mike Montgomery ever gets some players, the Bears will be scary.”

    Takeoff everything you said in your previous posts has been refuted.

    You don’t know and aren’t in position to say who speaks for Cal fans. Yes there are about 15 on here and perhaps they think Cal has good basketball recruiting but the national sites differ. Besides if Cal had such good recruiting this site would be packed with fans.

  • bwsa69

    Steve, there might be more of us lurking than you realize. I am here to read Jeff’s blog because he is the one who knows the most about Cal b-ball AND is sharing it. I don’t comment because I don’t have anything to add to the conversation. I don’t pay attention to who the best high-school guys are or who we are courting or why… until Jeff let’s me know. Oh, and btw, thanks Jeff. 🙂

    PS. Even if the recruiting isn’t top 10, the coaching can certainly make it look like it is. Just look at Coach Riley at Oregon State.

  • Uh Huh!

    Wow! Kaileb is “the key player in a program that has played in Colorado state championship games five times in the past 10 seasons”.
    Outstanding! Such experience!
    That must mean he’s going to be about 25 yrs old by the time he gets to Cal. Awesome. We won’t even have to wait for him to grow into his body at that point!
    But, will he be able to read? I mean, 10 years of high school….

    (…just teasin’, JF.)

  • rotfogel

    Cal just needs to focus on recruiting in it’s own backyard. Is it not a complete shame that there are no recruits from the Bay Area? Especially when at least 4 Bay Area recruits are better than the best recruit Cal got this year! What is going on? How is that happening (or not happening)?

  • SteveNTexas

    Rot there are plenty of recruits in our own backyard- Oregon got the best one but even GW got a better PF than us.

    Bwsa – umm you say “even if our recruiting isn’t in the top 10” Give me a break I would be fine if we were in the top 25.

    We were ranked LAST in the PAC 10 – We are not even in the top 10 in our conference.

  • Jeff Faraudo

    Uh Huh — I’ll take this slow for you: Rodriguez plays in a “program” that has been in five state title games over 10 seasons, he did not play on a team that achieved that. Enjoy your Sunday. (Teasing goes both ways).

  • takeoffthatredshirt

    #20 national recruiting by all-powerful and all-knowing recruiting sites in 2010. One down year when we only lose 1 guy and people like you freak out. We’ll probably have a solid class in 2012 so your panties are in a bunch over nothing. And it’s not like you posted your discontent one or twice, I’d ignore that.

    This is the most negative fan sites I’ve ever seen. Too bad because JO and JF are fantastic writers that know their stuff. If you’d like to read comments other than steves endless bitching and me not tolerating it go to CGB where the site full of posit fans that steve mentions actually exists.

  • takeoffthatredshirt

    Typo- Positive fans (you know the ones that might believe in the coaching staff and welcome recruits instead of pooping on them for not having more stats)

  • milo

    I really wish the crapping on Monty’s recruiting would stop. For pete-freakin’-sake, Monty recruit Crabbe…who will rip up the conference next season and who will make the NBA. The question is when. Lets hope Allen Crabbe stays 3-4 years…and he just might because that’s exactly the type of players Monty has recruited.

    Regarding this kid Rodriguez, he’s still very young but if he fills out and reaches 6’10”, is smart (sounds like it) and Monty thinks he can play, I’m fine by it. Besides Crabbe, Monty pulled in an excellent class and in fact signed Jorge. The big man issue is a bit more complex. A kid might be tall but if he can’t survive the other part of Cal (school) it’s pointless. The fact of the matter is Cal has to recruit a kid that can make it through school.

  • Calfan

    Let’s see, the Collins brothers, the Lopez brothers, going all the way back to, gulp, Adam Keefe, I’d say Monty knows how to recruit smart big men who, although they don’t light it up in college, go on to have decent NBA careers. Nothing that will knock your socks off, but solid. So, I say, give the man the benefit of the doubt. Sure, we need a couple of big bodies ASAP, but expect Monty to recruit smart raw recruits he can mold, but not highly rated dumb as nails prima donnas. Cal will have a solid program for years to come with Monty, just not a national champion.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Milo, no offense, but Crabbe did not look anywhere near NBA ready last season.

    Like Crabbe, however, Kaileb was recruited before his senior season and a national ranking. He, too, may turn into a prize recruit.

    It does not change the fact that Monty has yet to bring in any highly regarded bigs when his history and reputation for coaching big men is so strong. Any decent salesman should be able to close with Cal and Mike Mongomery as the selling points to at least a few top bigs. He doesn’t need to bring in the 1 and done guys, but big bodies that can turn coaching into success are insane not to invest in Cal and Monty to create their future in the game.

  • takeoffthatredshirt

    Wisdom Cow-

    Agreed Crabbe is not NBA ready but he may be after year 3.
    I think Milo (and myself) just mean that it’s odd to complain about recruiting with one of the best freshmen in the country on the squad.

    Not many pac-10 teams have solid big men – meaning 6-10 or over. We should have Amoke, Max, and Soloman up front this year but we all know that story.

    Stanford was a far more successful program at that time than Cal is now. They were consistently a top 10 or 20 team and earned the #1 seed a few times. When Cal achieves greater success over several seasons we will be more likely to land blue chip centers.

    We have the great framework to get that recruit but they don’t come often and Monty has had little time to work his magic to deserve the type of complaining from a vocal minority of the fan base.

  • milo

    WC, no offense taken…because I didn’t say he was NBA ready now but he compares well with other highly recruited freshman, like UNC’s Harrison Barnes. I think he has the potential to be the P-12’s POY. He’s only going to get better.

    Here’s the state line comparing him with Barnes:


    I do agree that bigs should be well aware of Monty’s experience developing bigs but those two years with the Ws and then at Cal coincided with a general drop in quality bigs in the Pac-10, with the exception of UA and UCLA.

    The thing about big men, if they’re half way decent, they usually leave quickly because as the saying goes…can’t teach height. Also leaving early is against Monty’s philosophy.

  • SteveNTexas

    Takeoff I never complained about 2010 nor other past years. You know I’m talking about 2011 and 2012 so why be dishonest and distort my references?

  • takeoffthatredshirt

    Let’s make the connection here one last time- because of 2010, which featured a top class, you should chill out about 2011, at least enough to not whine so many times. The 2012 class is not even close to set and you are prematurely complaining about it.
    But I won’t try any further since you’ve gone off the deep end claiming I am distorting fact. It’s a fact you should stress less and enjoy this team.

  • Uh Huh!

    It WAS a good day.
    The kids found tons of eggs. And we even got to sit and warm ourselves in the sun.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Why do people read Steve’s posts as if he is whining and stressing as opposed to a committed fan with legitimate concerns that merely disagree with those emphasizing the bright side? It is his opinion regarding recruiting, and the recruiting of big men has been pretty slim, pun intended. Without the good fortune of transfer MSF, there would have been no beef at all for the Monty tenure.

    It doesn’t mean Monty is not bringing in good kids that he can’t develop, but when scholarships are unused, there is no girth on the roster, and the coaches have been disciplined for recruiting violations, questions should at least be asked.

    Seriously, when you read a post, you apply the voice to it. It drives me nutty (a pet peeve I am whining about) that virtually anything considered criticism is also labelled whining. Neither Monty nor Cal is perfect. Oh no, sacrilege!

  • takeoffthatredshirt

    An informed opinion intelligently expressed, like your comment, isn’t whining. Repeatedly posting the same tired crap is different. I’m hardly a cheerleader for every Cal decision. I begged for them to let Braun go and I’m going to give Monty some years to build a program before I rant on a message board that he sucks at recruiting.

  • Dan

    Here here Wisdom Cow.

  • Eric

    Cheers to Wisdom Cow as well.

    I’m not critical of Monty – the contrast to Braun and the ability to get the most out of players with limited upside, resulting in a league title, is astonishing – but I’m critical of Tedford, and whatever is posted results in the same silly “whining, not a real Cal fan, go back Holmoe” responses.

    I don’t get the personal attacks on Cal fans who happen to question the direction of the sports program. This blog tends to generate a large range of opinions and observations of the same facts. For the most part, I find them insightful, even if I strongly disagree with them. Even the Moron – when he/she isn’t making idiotic comments about U$C’s alleged greatness – occasionally makes astute observations about Cal’s football team that are inconvenient but truthful. Call it a blind squirrel if you will.

    And no, SteveNTexas doesn’t say the same thing over and over – sure, he is often critical of Monty’s recruiting, but the issue of recruiting shows up in entirely different circumstances, raising distinct questions. If Monty brings in a top level Bay Area recruit, or a highly sought-after big man, I think he’ll acknowledge it.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Eric, you fool. What I wrote doesn’t apply to football. jk

  • Uh Huh!

    Look, both perspectives are valid.

    Monty hasn’t brought in monster (in stature and reputation) recruits some of us (me) thought he would. Thus, he’s been criticized.

    And yet, he’s been able to get his squad to outperform expectations each of the past 2 seasons. So, the other side gives him a hall pass saying the complainers should shut up until this current crop gets a chance to show their worth on the court.

    Let’s just all agree that we each know which side of the aisle we stand on (doubter or believer) and keep the personal attacks to the sideline. Monty’s got 5 big men projects now: Bak, Solomon, Kravish, Behrens, and now Rodriguez. I’m sure he’s hoping, along with us, that at least 2 or 3 of the 5 pan out. We’ll all just have to let it play out.
    The cake is now in the oven. Let it rise.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    I liked you better as Uh Oh. still jk

  • milo

    Here’s my deal…I just don’t want Cal and its fan base turn into a SEC clone (for football) or Big East/ACC clone (for hoops). By that I mean hyper fans that lack perspective and context and who will beat a dead horse with two dead horses. You guys have seen the rabid hyperactivity of SEC, Big East and ACC fans on interweb forums.

    re: Monty, he got Cal it’s first conference title in 50 years, got the ’09 CA HS player of the year and has Cal on track. YES, a dominant big man would make all the difference…but you know what Monty isn’t going to recruit anyone that doesn’t want to stay 4 years (3 if you count the Collins twins, Jaconson, etc.). That’s just the way it is…AND it greatly limits chance of a dominant big man because those guys tend to jump early (see Love from UCLA…but that’s the deal and you live with it.

    re: Tedford…yeah I want to see great football every year and 9 or 10 wins. The reality is, Cal got caught in a tsunami of U$C cheating and bad timing on the tree sitter. If U$C didn’t cheat, Cal would likely won 2 titles. If the SAHPC was on schedule, momentum would be easier to maintain. I think once Memorial and the SAHPC is done…it’s a new era. Give Tedford a couple of years w/o the building fiasco to deal with. (any of you guys live through a big time renovation at home or work…it causes divorces, personal hell and the like).

    Any way…as long as Cal and its fan base doesn’t go psycho…I’m cool.

  • Takeoffthatredshirt

    thanks Milo for being more articulate than me.

    Cal has absolutely no history of getting good big men, and certainly no history of top 50 recruit big men. Really try to name some.

    Powe? He was ‘too short’ and off major knee surgeries. Probably Cal’s best blue chip recruit of the modern era except Kidd and Shareef Abdur Raheem)

    Shareef? (muslim studies program and / or cash payments

    Kenyon Jones? was a good recruit but we know how that ended.

    Ryan Anderson? was close but not quite physical enough, although he has a nose for the ball he is not a ‘big man’.

    So to expect Monty to show up and demand he get a high level recruit big man in 2-3 years is not valid criticism.

    Also, having no idea what Cal is doing to recruit and it’s very hard to critique. Only then can we say how he could do it better.

    As Mad Cow suggests, asking the tough questions is a good thing and I am hardly cheer on everything Cal.

    To me, this is a way to ask the questions to take into account the respect we should have for Monty:

    What is Cal doing to attract local recruits?
    What do players who choose/do not choose Cal think of Monty?
    What recruits does Cal have a chance to get in 2012?
    Why have we offered Kaileb so early if he doesn’t have great stats (this article tried to set that straight)?

    I’m surprised anyone here finds pointing to some random dude w/ 3 stars who chose George Washington as ‘valid and intelligent criticism’.

    Also, naming every California player who has not chosen Cal is not a reason why Monty ‘can’t recruit’. 1/8 people in the US are from CA and many many local and LA players choose East Coast schools. It will keep happening so we should remain calm to avoid an aneurism.

    So, I disagree that saying ‘Monty is bad at recruiting’ is well-though out criticism and sought to discourage unfounded comments that are also not based in fact – such as no other schools were interested in Kaelib. Really, did Steve talk to every other school in the country? No, turns out he was starting to get attention from more programs.

    I’d really like someone who still disagrees to go through Milo’s and my post and point out the error in our thinking. If you agree, please stop pooping on Monty. Recruits read this and the program is in great shape. Go Bears.

  • Cali4nia

    His HS coach sounds more like his agent. LOL.

    Nice puff piece, Faraudo.