Daniel Caballero leads Battle Mountain girls basketball into the new year
Caballero has Huskies out to 2-4 start in first season as head coach
Battle Mountain girls basketball is under new leadership, but the last name of their new coach is anything but unfamiliar.
Daniel Caballero, the older brother of 2021 graduate and 1,000-point scorer, Gabby, has the Huskies (who start the youngest Caballero, Alessandra, at point guard) out to a 2-4 start in 2022-23, his first season as head coach.
“We’ve had our challenges so far; we’ve come across some very good teams,” stated Caballero, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant under Jim Schuppler.
“I feel as though we’ve competed with the teams. We’ve continued to fight from start to finish and that’s what I’ve been pushing from day one: we will never give in or give up.”
While his five younger siblings all attended Battle Mountain, the 2015 Vail Christian graduate (he did play baseball for the Huskies) was inspired to coach by his mentor, Sheldon Kuhns, who is retiring at the end of this season. The University of San Francisco graduate now working for RMT Architects in Avon hopes to establish a culture similar to the Saints coach — one that “isn’t always necessarily about basketball.”
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“Coach Kuhns cares so much for the individual,” he said. “The biggest thing I got from him was to ‘make it about the people, not just the wins and losses.'”
From leaving notes for athletic directors hosting team camps to ringing the Salvation Army bells at Village Market this December, the Huskies have been walking the walk.
“I’ve definitely always felt that basketball should be bigger than just what we put on the court, and that’s the lasting impression I’m trying to leave at Battle Mountain,” Caballero said. Even though his coaching foundation goes deeper than Xs and Os, Caballero did reboot the team’s offensive and defensive systems to better suit his squad’s length and athleticism.
“We’re pretty athletic, we get up and down the floor and have some girls who like to run,” Caballero said regarding one key change from last year’s 5-17 team, which had seven seniors on varsity.
The youthful Huskies — they have one senior and just four returners with any varsity experience — are hoping to use their quickness and defensive aggressiveness to dictate tempo.
“We’re young, but we’re eager. We think we have a lot to prove,” the coach continued.
Kurt leads multi-sport stars into battle for Huskies
Cassidy Kurt is the Huskies’ senior leader, vocal inspirer and bonafide team gym rat. Caballero said the shooting guard, the second-leading scorer on the team, has been putting up hundreds of shots a week since March.
“This year, she really wanted to step it up,” Caballero said, adding that his three captains — Kurt, Alessandra Caballero and Anna Glass, the team’s leading rebounder — are also the first to show up and the last to leave every practice.
“All three of them provide a level of work ethic the rest of the team mirrors,” he said.
Distinct from her older sister’s score-first mentality, Alessandra is a “more traditional point guard.”
“She’s really looking to dictate the tempo, distribute the ball — she’ll take her chances when she gets them — but she’s really looking to set the tone for us,” Caballero said of his youngest sibling, who leads the team in assists.
Multi-sport stars like the ultra-fast Kiki Hancock, the team’s leading scorer, and Elle Glendining, an athletic, almost 6-foot tall varsity soccer goalie, have allowed the team to use man-to-man full-court defense to instigate pressure and establish their desired speed. The Huskies can add height inside with Hailey Grant, who returns after suffering a leg injury last season.
“When we put both of them on the floor, we’re a pretty big team,” he said of Grant and Glendining, both of whom can jump out of the gym.
“They’re long, athletic — both are pretty close to touching the rim.”
Caballero expects schemes to adjust as they head into the league portion of the schedule. Glenwood Springs (7-2) is the big dog in the four-team Western Slope.
“What coach Rhonda Mosier has done over there — she runs a tight ship — and they’ve really set the standard for what it means to be successful on a year-in and year-out basis, so I have a lot of respect for her,” Caballero said of the Demons’ coach, who recently notched career-win No. 100.
Battles between Palisade (3-7), Eagle Valley (3-5) and Battle Mountain could have playoff implications as there is no automatic playoff bid coming from the Western Slope. That means the 32-team playoff field will be filled via RPI ranking. Currently, Glenwood Springs is No. 4, Eagle Valley is 39th, and Battle Mountain is 46th.
“I think Eagle Valley has done a good job over the last few years with Coach Vinny Cisneros, of trying to change the culture,” Caballero stated.
“Between Eagle Valley, us and Palisade, I think we have a strong chance at competing for a playoff spot.”
Thus far, the Huskies have been strictly on the road, falling to the likes of 6A schools Denver East (7-1) and Lakewood. Their two wins have come against Smoky Hill on Dec. 8 and Middle Park on Dec. 13.
“The theme has definitely been, lay the groundwork now,” Caballero said.
“We’ve taken some lumps a little bit, but as long as we do the right things, when January and February roll around and we start to play teams at the same classification, that will definitely put us on the right trajectory.”
The team opens a five-game homestand starting on Jan. 9 against Evergreen. They host Basalt, a team that split against the Devils, on Jan. 11.
“It’s definitely a game we have to be prepared for,” Caballero said. The Huskies end the week against Durango (8-1).
“They’re a strong team. They return a big core,” Caballero said of the Demons, who were 17-8 last year. “We’ll kind of get to push and push and see where we’re at.”
“We have such a strong group of girls; they’re in the gym this week voluntarily just getting shots up, staying in shape, doing the right thing, because they want to make waves in this league,” the coach continued.
“We’re looking to show people that we can be a lot better than maybe what they expect of us.”