PHOENIX – Few athletes have shaped basketball in Arizona more than Eddie House or Mike Bibby.
Now those family legacies have been infused with new blood.
Desert Mountain High School’s varsity team recently finished its greatest season in school history due in large part to the standout play of twin freshmen Kalek and Kaden House.
Their father, Eddie, still holds the all-time scoring record for ASU, his smooth shooting from beyond the arc a fresh memory even though it’s been 23 years since he was a Sun Devil. He played for nine NBA teams across 11 seasons, winning a title with the Boston Celtics in 2008. His twin sons are just starting their hoop careers, and helping the Wolves reach the AIA Open State semifinals this season was a strong beginning.
Their twin bond spills over to the hardwood, they said, adding that it means so much to them to be able to play on the court with each other. They understand that they only have a certain amount of time before they head off in different directions for college, and they want to make the most out of the time they have at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale.
The 16-year-old House twins were a crucial part of the team’s unprecedented success this season, but their family connection runs deeper than just the two of them.
Desert Mountain assistant coach Mike Bibby Jr., the son of former NBA player and Arizona Wildcats great Mike Bibby, is cousins with Kalek and Kaden, but he says it feels more like a big brother role.
“I’ve been kind of like an older brother to them pretty much their whole lives. Obviously, they were traveling when Eddie (House) was in the league (NBA), but every time that they are here it is more like a little brother kind of relationship,” Bibby Jr. said. “We grew up right next door to each other, so they have always been like little brothers to me.”
Both Kalek, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard and Kaden, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, were dominant on the court, leading the Wolves in almost every important statistical category. By the end of the season, Kaden was averaging 25 points, nine rebounds and almost four assists per game, while Kalek averaged 16 points, five rebounds and two assists per game. Normally it is rare to see high school freshmen have so much success during their first season, let alone two freshmen on the same team, but it did not seem to surprise anyone familiar with the Wolves.
“They play like older kids, ya know. The best way to sum up these young men is (they’re) easier to coach because they have a great basketball background, and it has been that way for a lot of years,” said assistant coach Dexter Brown. “So they have been started at a young age. Their impact is very rewarding as a coach, and I am sure as a teammate.”
While it is clear both Kalek and Kaden have natural talents, their skills are far from being merely genetic. The work the twins put in over the summer, both with the team and on their own, did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff.
“They put in the work all throughout the summer, every day during the season. You will find them in the gym all the time, so it is nothing that I am surprised about,” Bibby Jr. said. “They have really good size and good bodies lengthwise and strength, you know definitely not a surprise to me with how much work they put in.”
Both Kalek and Kaden realize how much they were able to impact the team this year, but they also know that the season was about more than them. It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the team that lost to eventual state champion Perry High in the semifinals, and both freshmen recognize the impact the upperclassmen had on them.
“They [seniors] really just helped me with being a leader and how to handle all the hype because everyone was talking trash to me and my brother and they helped us handle it,” Kaden said. “It means a lot, but I am not the only one who impacts the team. There are a lot of players that do the little things that impact the team as much as I do.”
From the outside looking in, Desert Mountain seemed to find the right players at the right time, however that is not the belief around the team. Players and coaches alike understand that the season’s success did not happen purely because of talented players, but because of how well the team played together.
“I feel like the trust has been there, because we know Zach Anderson and we know Ryan Dick, like I have known them before I came onto the team,” Kalek said, referring to two of his teammates and the bond the team showed during the season. “I feel like the trust is there and we have been practicing hard like every day, and I feel like our chemistry is coming together.”
The team’s chemistry grew throughout the season, gathering contributions from the entire roster. It might be cliché to say that it takes the entire team to accomplish a goal, but that was Desert Mountain’s mindset.
“You couldn’t tell that our freshmen are freshmen, and you couldn’t tell our seniors are seniors because we all play together and that is the emphasis that we stress quite a bit,” Brown said. “So, it is really hard to tell, if you weren’t here every day or didn’t know about them you wouldn’t know if they were freshmen or seniors. And our seniors (were) just good leaders, they lead by example, and they work hard, attend practice on time, all the things that we need to be a good program.”
Though the Wolves did not accomplish their ultimate goal of winning a state championship, there were still reasons to be proud. They finished the season 25-5 and went undefeated in their section.
“I am very proud of how far we have come as a team,” Kalek said. “This is the best record this school has ever had, and to come in for freshman year and be able to accomplish that, it just means a lot honestly.”