ROCHELLE — Former Hub basketball players Landon Griffith and Caleb Gould have quickly adjusted to the speed of college basketball, and their ability to push the tempo offensively and pressure the ball defensively stem from their years of varsity experience at Rochelle Township High School.
Griffith and Gould finished their senior seasons as two of Rochelle’s top three scorers, with Gould earning First-Team All-Conference honors in the Northern Illinois Big 12 West and Griffith taking home an Honorable Mentions. Both players took their basketball talents to Kishwaukee College this winter, and the two high school guards are making an immediate impact on the program. Both players are also eligible for Academic All-Conference honors this school year.
“I think I had a good season,” Griffith said. “I got a lot stronger and playing a new position helped me get to the rim and finish more around the basket… I really enjoyed playing with the seven people we had during the second semester and I will never forget the experience… I felt like I got more aggressive throughout the season.”
“I learned a lot throughout the season,” Gould added. “It was hard because we had a lot of potential at the beginning of the season, then we had key injuries and were forced to play with seven people… Walking into a gym with 6 or 7 guys felt different than walking into a gym with 15 guys like I did in high school.”
Gould appeared in all 31 games for Kishwaukee (6-25), starting in 29 games and averaging 11 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from 3-point range. Gould also totaled an average of 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. His biggest performances included scoring a season-best 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting against Blackhawk College on Feb. 6.
“I thought I shot the 3-ball well,” Gould said. “It was different from high school when you had all day to get a shot off, but I learned how to get my shot off quicker and that helped a lot. I’m going to continue getting shots off before next season rolls around and I would like to increase my strength and my vertical this offseason, as well as working on my ball handling.”
Griffith made over half of his field-goal attempts during his freshman season, averaging 11.1 points per game and shooting 52.5 percent from the field. Griffith recorded 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game this winter, and his top individual efforts included 23 points and 10 rebounds against Carl Sandburg College on Feb. 22 and a season-high 15 rebounds versus Sauk Valley Community College on Jan. 25.
“The speed of the game is a lot faster,” Griffith said. “The court is longer and many teams want to get out and run… I thought I attacked the rim and finished around the rim very well, and I think my defense got a lot better guarding the best player on the court every day. I’m going to work on my 3-ball over the offseason… I’m also going to work on my ball handling, getting in the weight room and getting stronger.”
While the Kougars may have struggled with injuries and other issues keeping players on the floor this winter, both Gould and Griffith have established themselves as go-to options for Kishwaukee moving forward. Both players attributed their early successes in college to their time at RTHS.
“The Rochelle basketball program helped me prepare for the speed of the college game,” Griffith said. “We were always taught to push the ball and get up and down the court as fast as we could.”
“We played against tougher competition in high school and that helped,” Gould added. “I learned a great deal from coach Thompson and coach [Jared] Johnson that helped it be a smoother transition into college ball.”