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13 points to 1,000: Bulldogs' senior reflects on achievement

Caleb Duffield talks about scoring 1,000 points.

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Caleb Duffield. (Photo courtesy of Karly Schefter Photography)

‘Football is better than basketball,’ that’s the mentality Bowman County senior Caleb Duffield thought as a fourth-grader. The only dreams he had was seeing himself as a star football player, leaving his mark and being remembered as one of the best athletes to play the sport and hitting corner stones that only a select few have achieved.

Nearly 10 years later, he had that exact opportunity on a Tuesday night at home with his friends and family in attendance.

Only, it wasn’t in football -- but basketball, and Duffield was less than 13 points away from recording his 1,000th career point in varsity basketball, an achievement that only three players have been able to accomplish within the past seven years.

As fans piled into the Bowman County gymnasium to see the potential historic achievement take place, the nearly 6-foot guard sat in the locker room focused on getting the win for his team but prepared for his individual achievement by thinking of the time when playing basketball was the last thing on his mind.

As a kid, Duffield focused solely on the game of football, with that being his father’s favorite sport. However, in fourth grade it was Duffield’s mother that encouraged the guard to give the winter sport a chance.

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“I was in love with football, and I didn’t really want to go out for basketball because I couldn’t dribble, I couldn’t shoot, and I couldn’t do anything because I never really played and then my mom forced me to go out,” he said.

As time went by, Duffield began to see the talents he had within the sport. His basketball IQ being one of the best in his grade level, his ability to score and find his teammates getting more developed each passing day.

As a result, the kid that wanted nothing to do with the sport in the beginning became an athlete that wanted to do nothing else but have the round rubber ball in his hands and hear the sweet sound of the ball going through the white nylon net.

“I started to get really good in the fifth and sixth grade and started to move up to play in eighth grade ball in seventh grade,” he said.

With each passing year, Duffield’s confidence within himself began to grow, along with his height and his abilities, and his success continued to shine brightly as he quickly became known for being one of the best players in his class.

By the time Duffield was a freshman in high school, he was highly confident in his abilities to make the Bulldogs' varsity basketball team.

Based on his potential and his abilities, his chances of making the varsity team could be almost as being as easy as a layup.

That was until it was revealed that Duffield had not made the varsity team. For the determined Duffield, the rejection felt as if his game winning jumper was blocked and hit him in the face as the final buzzer sounded.

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Game over.

“Freshman year was rough because I didn’t get a varsity jersey,” he said.

The young athlete was heartbroken, but wasn’t willing to give up. From then on, the only thing he cared about was basketball and making the varsity roster one year later.

To Duffield, the round ball was no longer a hobby, or just a ball, it was part of his heart. Each dribble he took vibrated through his body. The thumping of the ball running parallel with his own heart beat. Every jump shot needed to be perfect, his eyes glued to the orange rim and the bright white square attached to the clear backboard like a sniper scoping his next target.

When just watching basketball with his friends on television, to his friends it was entertainment. To Duffield, he was in his own classroom. The NBA players were the teachers, and the court was the classroom.

To Duffield, the hours spent in the gym felt like minutes. The days in the gym felt only like one long workout. The guard wanted to be the best, imagining himself as a strong two-way guard like Houston Rockets’ guard Victor Oladipo and having the swift handles of Brooklyn Nets’ guard Kyrie Irving.

In the summer, Duffield began to work out with his uncle, personal trainer, Mark Kinnebrew and the ‘I’m Possible’ basketball training program in Bismarck, N.D. He continued to do so throughout the remainder of his career in Bowman County.

By Duffield’s sophomore year, the guard left no stone left unturned and made sure everyone in the gym knew he belonged on the varsity team.

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After three years on the varsity level, it all came down to this. A cold Tuesday night with fans flooding into the Bowman County gym to witness the guard achieve what only a very few have been able to do in their entire career, score 1,000 points in basketball.

Following warmups and introductions the guard walked onto the court and prepared for the upcoming battle against the 3-6 Harding County Ranchers. For the 5-2 Bulldogs, the team was confident but were on edge for their teammate.

The crowd was timid with excitement to witness history. The team on edge to be part of history.

For Duffield, the guard was read to make history. His body posture showed signs of being nervous. But the ceiling lights bounced into his dark pupils and reflected a player that had already felt rejection on that court and was determined to never feel it again.

“I knew I was probably going to get it since it was only 13 points, and I had like 35, 33, and 29 in the last three games so I was pretty confident,” Duffield said. “But you never know, you can’t tell the future. I could have gotten hurt and ended my career on the 10th point or something.”

The guard took some deep breaths, swayed side to side and watched as the ball flew off the fingertips of the ref and into the air with both centers reaching out for a slight touch of the basketball as the sound of the ref’s whistle blended into the sounds of the cheering crowd.

Game time.

Duffield showed he was ready to play, scoring early and often for the Bulldogs’, which have found most of its wins coming from Duffield’s ability to score.

With each bucket he scored, the intensity rose along with the volume of the crowd.

‘He could do this,’ everyone thought.

With 11 points scored, Duffield only needed two more to clinch the achievement.

What happened next felt like a movie for the senior guard.

With Bulldog junior guard Gavin Scott in possession of the basketball, Duffield ran to the right wing, the defenders on his trail. Duffield was determined to make history, the opposing team was determined for it not to be on them.

After getting past the defenders, Scott, who was on the far left of half court near the half court logo, made a deep pass connection with Duffield. With the ball in his hands Duffield surveyed the court and gazed into the eyes of his opponent, seemingly looking deep into his soul. The fans roared with excitement.

Time to make history.

Other Rancher defenders broke from their assignments to keep Duffield from scoring. The senior guard never wavered and instead perfected a crossover like NBA guard Irving, broke free of two defenders and made his way to the basket, igniting the fans to a high pitch cheering level.

The entire gym thought Duffield was going to take the ball to the rim. However, the guard had one trick up his sleeve.

With defenders quickly closing the paint and approaching Duffield, the guard stopped on a dime and went up for a 15-feet fadeaway midranger as the Ranchers’ defenders reached out their hands in an attempt to block the shot.

For a moment, the players gently floated above the wooden floor as if the game had been transported into space. Duffield, who seemingly was frozen in time, gave one final scope of the basket and let loose before landing backwards gazing at nothing but the basket.

The entire gym watched the ball soar, the Bowman County fans’ spirits rising as high as the ball but began to hold its breath as it began to descend.

For a moment all was silent. Nothing could be heard.

Nothing --- but the beautiful sound of a perfect swish.

Point number 1,000 had been reached.

It wasn’t the game winner -- not even close -- but with history being made, it might as well have been.

“It’s pretty awesome since I didn’t want to play basketball in fourth grade,” Duffield said. “It’s kind of cool to see how far a person can go if you really start to fall in love with a sport, and not many people can go out and achieve that accomplishment in their high school careers and I think it’s a cool accomplishment.”

For Bowman County Head Coach Nick Walker, the achievement was one to forever remember.

“I think the biggest thing that comes to mind is what type of a competitor he is,” Walker said. “I’ve coached Caleb in three different sports for three years now and the one thing about Caleb is that he always shows up when the stakes are at the highest.”

Walker then added, “I think our guys look to Caleb, our guys have for a few years. When we need a big shot we look to him and when we need a big stop we look to him and when we need a little energy to pick things up. I think he has really grown in the last three years as a person and as a player, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Following the accomplishment, Duffield was just able to enjoy the rest of the game. But everything else from then on felt like a blur.

Bowman County eventually pulled out the win 62-50.

For Duffield, the achievement is not just about looking at the journey that he has gone through to get to this point, but knowing that the younger generations will now look to him and his abilities, just as he did to get to 1,000 points.

However, while he is happy about achieving his individual goal, there is only one goal that he wants more than anything.

Play in the state tournament.

“My goal all three years of playing varsity has been to go to state because all of the three years that I’ve played varsity we’ve had the talent to go to state,” he said. “I think it would be a huge accomplishment to take the Bowman County Bulldogs to state for the first time in like 13 years; that’d be awesome.”

Walker believes with the pressure of Duffield reaching 1,000 points now off his shoulders, the team could be even tougher knowing that the team will be primarily focused on going to state and Duffield can just play the game he loves.

“I think anytime you have a milestone coming you get a little bit of added pressure on you so you hope you’re able to relax a little bit now that the milestone is behind,” he said. “Hopefully as a team it gives us a little bit of a jolt knowing that you have reached the milestone as a team, and hopefully, we can continue to grow.”

Duffield later discussed what advice he would give to those athletes that may someday want to make history of their own by scoring 1,000 points.

“Never give up and always try to be like that leader and the person that your team can always go to when you need a bucket,” he said. “I think it’s all about extra work; you can’t just show up and just go through the motions. Every time you play -- you do anything in life you got to do it like it’s your last time doing it. Do the best job you can and hope for the best outcome.”

Duffield is currently uncertain what the future holds but hopes to continue his basketball career at the collegiate level while pursuing a business management degree.

Bowman County is scheduled to play again on Friday on the road against Mott-Regent.

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Despite liking the sport of football as a kid, it is basketball that will forever have Caleb's heart. (Photo courtesy of Karly Schefter Photography)

Related Topics: DICKINSON
Matthew Curry is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune.
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