02-07-22 Becker

With the student body chanting his name, Abilene senior Kaleb Becker added himself to the ultimate list in Abilene High School basketball history with a fourth quarter jumper that gave his 18 points at the time and propelled him to seventh place in Cowboy history with at least 1000 points scored in a career,

Becker’s heroics came against a very tough Marysville Bulldog team and came to help rally the team to a 66-59 come from behind win in the Abilene gym. The Cowboys win gave Abilene a 12-4 record to keep them in the top four seeds of the Class 4A West division.

With 20 points at the end of the game, Becker is notched at seventh place in school history with 1003 points scored and four remaining regular season games remaining on the schedule. He has played in 78 varsity games according to sports broadcaster Trent Sanchez of KABI Radio. Sanchez calls play by play of AHS sports and has been at the microphone for over 20 plus years for his alma-matter.

Becker’s career as a Cowboy began when then head coach Terry Taylor had him step immediately to varsity competition as a freshman. Becker played two years for Taylor and has been playing the last two seasons for current head coach Erik Graefe.

“I haven’t missed a game since my freshman year,” Becker said. “It’s a little hard to summarize my high school career but I think I’ve had a pretty good career. I’ve been very lucky and grateful towards everything. I mean not very often you get to play varsity as a freshman. I had a lot of upper classmen who treated me well. They just encouraged me rather than to pick at me for being a freshman. I’m very grateful for all the coaching and support while I have had this opportunity,”

After Friday night’s game, Becker has scored 1003 career varsity points for AHS and is seventh all-time behind Shawn Herrman (1542), Mark Willey (1225), Ryan Herrman (1197), Andy Wilson (1186), Mike Wood (1138) and Shawn Lemon (1055). Herrman set the mark in 2002 as an AHS senior.

“I had great teammates when I played for coach Brian Roth back in 2002,” Herrman said Friday evening. “I really enjoyed playing with those guys back then and our NCKL competition was extremely tough. We didn’t make it to state but Chapman and Concordia did. A lot of the guys in the league were All-State players.”

Becker is the first Abilene player to reach 1000 Point Club since Wilson did in 2013. He has four games remaining on the schedule in the regular season before post season begins and is in good space to at least move up to sixth place in AHS history.

“Reaching this point means a lot to me,” Becker said. “I’ve put in countless hours in the gym working to better myself and having that payoff at the end is really special.”

Growing up watching the success of the KU basketball program, Becker found himself modeling after players like Paul Pierce who went on to play for the Boston Celtics in the NBA.

“Paul Pierce has always been one of my favorite players,” Becker said. “I’ve watched him growing up, mostly on the Celtics, but the KU program is always successful and that is why I have so much respect for coach (Bill) Self. I’ve kind of modeled myself after who I’ve watched all my life.”

Former teammates Preston Boyd, Timmy Barbieri and Travis Beetch were former Cowboys that Becker mentioned helped influence his game for Abilene. He also mentioned the great coaching he got as a Longhorn at AMS and both Taylor and Graefe at the high school level. He said it has been really special to finish out his career with lifelong teammates Cooper Wildey and Braden Adams, both seniors on this year’s team.

“Kaleb is a very strong and athletic kid,” Herrman said. “I’ve kind of watched him grow up a little bit and he is very strong on the inside, and it seems teams have a lot of difficulty stopping him, especially when he has the ball. He is super athletic.”

“It’s really good to see Kaleb awarded for his hard work,” Abilene coach Mark Willey said. “He has really expanded his game and has shot the ball extremely well this year. He has proven to be the ‘go to’ guy in the Cowboys offense. He also makes the other guys around him better; he is not afraid to give the ball up for a better look. He has become a complete player.”

Head coach Erik Graefe is amazed at Becker’s worth ethic and his leadership ability.

“I didn’t really mention this accomplishment for Kaleb in any team setting,” Graefe said. “I didn’t want to add any undue pressure to Kaleb or his teammates. But you think about this accomplishment, you got to bring the wood every single game, and that’s from his freshman year – to reach this level. I remember the summer before his freshman year and watching him play and interreact with his teammates and I thought, boy this kid is going to be something special.”

Graefe also praised Becker for his leadership on the court, on the bench and in practice.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I think he would be carrying the weight for four years,” Graefe said. “He’s made me look like I know what I’m doing more times than I can count. All the things he does on the floor are immeasurable. I mean you can stat the points he scores – but he is so good about calming his teammates down and rebounding and being a defensive player as well. He is really a good defensive player, and he sits with our JV team on the bench to encourage our kids, He is a consummate teammate.”

Becker has dreamed of playing at the highest level after graduating from AHS. He talked about his career goals as maybe a graphic designer in the sports world. He mentioned he has a couple of offers to play collegiately but he is going to wait until the season is over to decide about his future. He just wants to enjoy his time with guys if he can.

“I really enjoy being a leader on this team,” Becker said. “I just enjoy being around these guys and doing something I love every day of the year.”

Living in a gym his entire life and being the kid he is makes him a key in building a winning team according to Graefe.

“Somebody is going to get a great player,” Graefe said. “I’ve called a couple of coaches and I’ve told them I don’t have any reason to call other than that if you want to have a winning team, if you want to be the kind of team that wins consistently, this is a kid that is going to be on your roster. I can not recommend him enough. If you only look the film hi-lights, then you’ll say he is a kid that is 6-4 and gets most of his points at the post. They don’t see what he does all day, every day. He understands the game and he knows it really well.”

Ron Preston is the retired Sports Editor of the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle.


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