CHARLOTTESVILE — There was a time when Eastern Hancock boys basketball coach Aaron Spaulding wasn’t sure Caleb Kennedy would become one of the top players to ever dress for the Royals.
“I remember Caleb didn’t start on our freshman team. He started as a sophomore, and I thought maybe he could help us out on the varsity level,” Spaulding reminisced of the 2008 graduate. “He was only 5-foot-4-inches as a freshman, and I honestly didn’t expect he would help us the way he did. The fact that he grew seven inches helps, as well.”
Fast forward eight years and numerous accolades later and Spaulding was all smiles Saturday night, as he watched Kennedy be inducted into the Eastern Hancock Athletics Hall of Fame.
The same could be said of Kennedy, who admitted he was a bit “embarrassed” by the honor.
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“It’s exciting. Coach Spaulding called me to tell me about it, and I thought it was a joke,” Kennedy laughed. “It was unexpected, but a good feeling. I was nervous standing in front of all those people, as I am used to playing in front of the crowd.”
The newly enshrined hall of famer noted he didn’t expect the nod considering with the way his Eastern Hancock career began.
“My freshman and sophomore years, I didn’t play much, but I stayed determined, continued to work hard and it paid off my junior and senior years,” he said. “I outworked everyone else. My sophomore year, I got more confidence and more playing experience. My junior year, I worked harder and got stronger.”
His efforts paid off.
As a junior and senior, Kennedy grew into the program’s top player, who Spaulding refers to as “the most dominant player” in his tenure.
As a two-year starter, Kennedy was the leading scorer and rebounder on the 2008 sectional championship team, and he finished second in the state in rebounding as a senior.
Kennedy’s name is cemented in the record books, as he is second all-time in rebounding and ranks as the seventh leading scorer in school history. The 18.7 points a game he averaged as a senior remains the best scoring average in school history.
Others began to take notice as Kennedy was selected honorable mention All-State by the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association, was invited to the Hoosier Basketball Magazine’s Top 60 workout and participated in the Hoosiers All-Star Classic at Historic Hoosiers Gymnasium in Knightstown.
After graduating from Eastern Hancock, Kennedy found a home at Huntington University where he was a four-year player.
“I was looking at Anderson, Marian and Huntington. Huntington gave me an opportunity to play under some guys and learn college basketball,” Kennedy said.
He ended his college career as Huntington’s 22nd career leading scorer with 1,494 points and was named first-team NAIA Division II All-American his senior year.
In addition, he led the Mid-Central Conference in rebounding, was second in the conference in scoring and was named the Player of the Year.
“He was the type of kid you want other kids to follow. He was a great role model and had an unbelievable motor that never stopped,” Spaulding said. “He played hard, worked hard and great things happened to him. I never would have thought that the guy who couldn’t make our freshman team would become an All-American, but it’s because of how hard he worked. I am very proud of him.”
That praise means a lot to Kennedy, who credits Spaulding for his success.
“I definitely enjoyed the overall coaching scheme and the way coach Spaulding would break down opposing players and instilled a relentless work ethic in his players,” Kennedy said.
While he no longer plays competitively, Kennedy stays busy. He owns a local construction business with his father and brother-in-law, but he admits he sees himself back on the hardwood one day.
“I would like to be an assistant coach and share my knowledge of the game with post players,” he said.