Prep Basketball: Danville's Caudill glad to be back on the court after missing last year with back injury
Danville¿s Rob Caudill is glad to be back on the court this season after missing last year with a back injury. (Clay Jackson)
Caudill has returned to the Danville basketball team for his senior season after sitting out last year with pain in his back that not only kept him out of the gym but threatened his overall quality of life.
But now he is receiving regular treatment that has allowed him to get back on the court and become a key contributor for the Admirals.
After barely getting off the bench in his first two high school seasons, Caudill has started every game this season and has become one of Danville’s top defenders as well as an occasional source of scoring bursts. Baseball is Caudill’s favorite game, but he said he also loves basketball and is glad to be playing again.
“Thankfully I got my back under control and I was able to come out this year and play,” Caudill said. “I¿wanted to last year, and I was not able to.”
Caudill hadn’t done much more than fill a uniform and a seat on the bench as a sophomore, but he might have figured in the Admirals’ plans last season if it hadn’t been for recurring pain in his back.
“My back had been bothering me for a while, (and) we didn’t know what it was,” he said.
He visited a handful of doctors and physical therapists before being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that Caudill said is similar to rheumatoid arthritis. According to the Spondylitis Association of America’s website, ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that primarily causes inflammation of the spinal joints. Those with a family history of the disease are at greater risk, and it occurs at a younger age than many forms of arthritis, usually between ages 17 and 45, and is most common in males.
Caudill said his is a genetic condition — “I was born with it; I’ll always have it” — that resulted in pain in his lower back and unusual muscle tightness. He said it became worse after his sophomore baseball season, and he was diagnosed about a year ago —¿after basketball season had begun.
“I wanted to make sure that I was ready for baseball season (last year),” he said. “If I’d known sooner what it was, I still could’ve ended up playing (basketball).”
Now he receives twice-weekly injections of Enbril, an arthritis medication, and he makes sure to stretch well before practices and games.
Because he had missed a season, Caudill had to earn his spot on the team. He didn’t decide to return to basketball until after Andrew Zaheri had been hired in August to replace Matthew Yates, who resigned as Danville’s coach this summer to take the same job at Frankfort.
“Once he was hired and I got to talking to him — he’s a really good guy — he talked me into playing, and I’m definitely glad I did,” Caudill said.
“(But) I definitely had to earn my spot. I guess I don’t wow people with my scoring ability, but I try to do the little things:¿rebound, play good defense, try to be coachable and help be a leader on this team.”
Caudill said he has learned to value defense, which has also been a point of emphasis for Zaheri.
“I take pride in my defense. ‘Coach Z’s’ a big defensive guy. He’s drilled it into our heads to take pride in our defense and not let our man score on us, so I try to do that,” he said.
He said he has also emerged as more of a leader. Guard Tryston Ford is the undisputed leader of the team not only in the scoring column but also on the floor, “but he doesn’t like to be a vocal leader, so I try to be a little bit more of a vocal leader.”
The offense is centered around Ford, but Caudill has been productive as well, averaging 7.1 points with five games in double figures.
“I try to play good defense, try to be more of a role player and do the lil things. If I’m asked to get a shot, if I’m open, I definitely try to do that, too,” Caudill said. “I don’t try to force it. I let Tryston¿do his thing, and I try to help him out, mostly.”
Caudill can be a good perimeter shooter — he hit five 3-point shots for a season-high 15 points in a recent win over Campbellsville — but he said he is still getting his shot back into shape.
“Taking a year off kind of hurt my shot. I came out a little rusty this year,” he said. “I¿haven’t been hitting my shot as much as I’d like, but after the first few games I kind of figured out what I needed to do to help us win, and of course, that’s the number one thing.
“Shooting it 10 times a game, if I have to I will, but I’d rather just shoot it when I have to and make sure we win the game.”
Danville is 5-9 overall and 1-1 in 45th District play entering its district game tonight at Garrard County, but Caudill said he believes the Admirals are making progress after a late start under Zaheri, who wasn’t with them this summer, and a slow start to the season.
“We’ve played a really tough schedule, and we’ve got a couple losses we probably should’ve won. We do play good defense, for the most part, and if our offense can come around and we can really hit full stride, there’s no reason we couldn’t win the district,” he said.
And while Caudill is focusing on basketball, his mind is never far from baseball, and the pitcher-infielder said he is working out three days a week.
“I’m definitely still working on baseball. I’m looking to have a big year there as well,” he said.
He’s also looking forward to an important decision in the coming months on where he’ll play baseball in college. A good student, Caudill said he’s considering the school as well as the baseball program and currently has Centre, Transylvania, Miami (Ohio) and Davidson in his top four.
“But I’m not ruling anybody out at this point,” he said.