By Adam McDougall, St. Thomas University Journalism
Caleb Sooley was our first recruit to be a flight away from campus. He hails from St. John’s, NL and moving here was a huge adjustment for him. Caleb has been with us for the last four years and has played an integral part in our growth and success. A captain for the last two years, Caleb is a natural leader and someone who is going to instantly make an impact on a program next year wherever he decides to go.
Before I chose to come to RNS, I was really just looking for a prep school to go to. I was in Grade 9 back home in Newfoundland just weighing my options, and that‘s when Coach Gay approached me at a showcase in Halifax. He told me about the school’s history and expressed what he was looking to build in terms of a basketball program. I already knew two of the seniors that were going to be there, so I was already somewhat familiar with the school and program. Based off of academics and how close it was to home, as well as Coach Gay’s vision of where the program was going to go, it was really easy to make the decision to go to RNS. That decision is one of the best choices I have ever made. I have received a ton of exposure here, and it has set me up for playing at the next level.
I didn’t feel any pressure being the first out-of-province recruit. The culture surrounding the basketball team was still relatively new, and RNS had not really recruited for basketball at that point, but the school was really welcoming as a whole. They were really excited when I showed up, and I think that’s when everybody began to realize that the basketball program was really starting to build itself up.
The culture that we have built in the basketball program plays a pretty big part in the success we’ve had. When Coach was first trying to develop the culture, his goal was to try to take the East-Coast brand of basketball, which is characterized by a kind of grittiness and toughness, and display it across North America. I think he did a really good job with that goal, and with keeping most of the guys local to help show that we can play out here on the East Coast, that we are tough, and that we are not afraid of some of the bigger provinces or bigger names. It was a really cool thing to come into, and to look back on and see how the culture has developed since I started here.
I think that – being the first out-of-province recruit – I played a bit of a part in getting other recruits to come to RNS. I grew up playing against our point guard Kellen Tynes a lot, so when he came over I was really the only guy who would have played against him provincially. He and I used to go at it a lot. Same with Matt Pennell, who is also from Newfoundland. He was one of my best friends growing up, and we played on the same team all the way up through the system, so I guess I helped a little bit in bringing those two guys in.
The first year I was away was pretty tough. I left when I was 14 to come to RNS, so it was a big adjustment having to live in dorms and having to manage everything myself for that first year. I got used to it pretty fast, though. I always had a full schedule, which definitely helped. I think I adjusted pretty well to it for someone my age.
My biggest strength as a basketball player is my adaptability – I can fit into pretty much any offence, or any defense, while guarding multiple positions. Position wise, I can do a little bit of everything, which is the main root of my adaptability, but I can also adapt to the players around me. I can read players around me and fill whatever role is needed of me on any particular day, and I can fit in any number of different offensive and defensive coaching schemes.
My adaptability comes from the fact that, at the moment, I mostly play shooting guard or small forward, but I have played a lot of different positions, dating back to when I started playing basketball. I played point guard for a lot of my life back home and, when I was younger, I played in the post because I was really tall for my age.
Leadership is a big thing for me. I had great leadership when I came in as a Grade 9. The captains I had in my first year here really showed me what it was like to welcome guys into the team. They also showed me how to be there for your teammates when they need it – whether that’s on or off the court. I was named captain in both Grade 11 and 12, and I just look to do the same thing that my captains did to me. We have a couple young guys on the team, and we get new guys every year, so I take that challenge with pride and just try to ensure that everyone is comfortable. I think we have the best chance to win games that way.
I’d say that I’m a quiet leader. That isn’t to say that I don’t talk – I talk to the boys before games – but I’m better at taking boys aside and having actual one-one-one conversations where I make guys comfortable. I like to make sure that all of my teammates know that they can come to me and talk if they are having problems, or if they feel like something is off with themselves or the team. I help a lot of the guys work some of that stuff out behind the scenes.
My goal for the season is the same goal as everyone else on the team – and that is to win a national championship. That is our number one goal. That is what we’re working towards everyday. Everybody is on the same page for that goal. Everyone has bought in.
My favourite subject in school is English. I’m not much of a math guy, so I really took to writing and English and literature. I read a lot – I really like reading. My favourite book is Toughness by Jay Bilas. He is an ESPN analyst right now, and – way back in the day – he played for Duke University. In the book, he just talks about the path that brought him to Duke and how he went about his career. I think it’s a really cool read, and Bilas is someone that I’ve grown to try to emulate, in areas. I like his off-court tendencies, especially his mental toughness. I also like how he prepared for games, and how he went about the game of basketball – I really admire that about him.
Outside of school and basketball, I love to listen to music. It is definitely one of my favourite things to do. I don’t play any instruments or anything like that, but I do listen to music almost all the time, whether that be when I’m playing basketball, doing homework, or when I’m trying to relax. I’m into a bunch of different genres as well, I don’t really have a favourite. Right now, I’m into the newer style of R&B, but I really do listen to anything and everything.