BOYS BASKETBALL| Competition helps drive South Kitsap’s Bakalarski to success

It is an endless pursuit for South Kitsap senior Caulin Bakalarski that extends beyond the hardwood.

His desire to best Ryley Callaghan continues from the three-point arc, where the two face off for the distinction of the program’s best shooter, and into the classroom.

Both are enrolled in marketing, and when it comes to selling maroon basketball socks or devising a marketing campaign, neither wants to wants to be outdone.

“I think it makes better both in sports and in the classroom,” Callaghan said. “We kind of strive to make each other better. You want to have that better grade — it doesn’t matter if you’re only 1 percent above him.”

Bakalarski said that stems from when they joined a local Pee-Wee basketball team in fourth grade.

“We always were on the same team growing up,” said Bakalarski, who also played with Callaghan at Marcus Whitman Junior High. “We always kind of hated each other at first because we were both good and you want to be the best when you’re young.”

They describe each other as best friends now, but the competitiveness has not quelled throughout the years.

“One of us has to be better,” Bakalarski said. “That’s just how it is, I guess.”

Bakalarski and Callaghan said “better” could be in daily or hour-long intervals when they play one-on-one or have a three-point contest. Just count on those competitions extending into the twilight. One game often turns into a best of seven. At the end, Bakalarski said the loser often pleads for more.

“We’ll never go home if we don’t just stop,” Callaghan said. “Sometimes we might go home a little mad at each other.”

The intense competitions seemly have prepared both well for the rigors of the Class 4A Narrows League. After five seasons of mediocrity that saw the Wolves produce a combined 48-56 record, Bakalarski and Callaghan — with the assistance of a strong senior class — helped them reach regionals and finish with a 16-9 record last season.

Bakalarski averaged 14.4 points per game last season. Only Callaghan, the team’s point guard, averaged more points (14.9). But both channel their competitiveness toward opponents on the court. Through their preparation, they know that opposing defenses will regret placing too much emphasis on one individual.

That was the case last season when top-ranked Garfield tried to limit Callaghan during a regional playoff game at Jackson High School in Mill Creek. Bakalarski scored a career-high 28 points and South nearly pulled off the upset before losing 74-65 in overtime.

On Dec. 18 against Bellarmine Prep, the Lions placed their focus on Bakalarski. Callaghan responded by scoring 20 of his game-high 27 points in a 66-56 win.

“It worked out for us,” Callaghan said.

Neither said they are concerned about who does the bulk of the scoring. Bakalarski watched as his older twin sisters — 2012 South graduates Amy and Carly — helped the Wolves reach state in ’11. He also relishes memories of watching from the bleachers as South’s boys team advanced to state from 2001-06.

“My main goal right now is to win the Narrows League,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always wanted since I was a little kid.”

Bakalarski acknowledges that he is blessed to have the opportunity. None of the women in his family are tall and his father is 6 feet. Bakalarski stands 3 inches taller.

“Somehow I got the good genetics,” he said. “I’m hopefully still growing.”

South coach John Callaghan said those natural gifts extend to Bakalarski’s athleticism. But ability only can be maximized through effort. Perhaps no statistic represents that better than the team-high 7.2 rebounds Bakalarski averaged last season in spite of playing wing.

“He’s lived in the gym,” John Callaghan said. “He’s really worked at becoming a good player. He’s earned what he got.”

For Bakalarski, who hopes to major in business or marketing, daily duals against his best friend might extend beyond this season. They have offers to play at Eastern Oregon University, but Bakalarski and Callaghan both said they are considering a variety of opportunities.

“It will be weird going to different colleges unless we go to the same one,” Bakalarski said. “Hopefully it is the best decision for both of us.”

Bakalarski plans to solidify his college plans after the season. For now, his focus is on helping the Wolves return to the playoffs.

And, if they have an opportunity, Bakalarski would like another shot at Garfield.

“I want to play them again,” he said. “Get them back.”

The pursuit continues.

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