Desiree Caldwell Eager to Join Sister as an International Champion
In the Caldwell home just outside San Antonio, Texas, there are three medals earned in international basketball competition.
Two gold medals belong to Receé Caldwell, the older of two sisters brought into this world by Alba and Ray Caldwell. The younger sister, Desiree Caldwell, owns a bronze.
And, it bothers her.
Is it possible to cherish and dislike something at the same time? Three years ago, Desiree Caldwell learned the answer to that question, for her, is, yes.
Desiree was the youngest member of the USA Basketball U16 National Team back in 2015. While she was only 14, she already was becoming a strong point guard who played with a maturity and understanding of the game on par with players much older than her.
But, her playmaking ability and determination couldn’t stop the U16 team from losing a semifinal game to Brazil that summer in the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. It was the first time in U.S. history the U16 team did not play in the gold-medal game. The team had been 18-0 to that point with three gold medals to its credit.
“Heartbreaking,” Caldwell says three years later. “That was probably the most heartbreak I ever experienced, especially being the first team ever to not bring home a gold medal. That just made it like 1,000 times worse.
“It’s OK, I know this experience will be better.”
Caldwell is back in a USA Basketball uniform this summer as a member of the U18 National Team. It’s a second chance of sorts for Caldwell to earn a gold medal. The team is in the midst of training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and will head to Mexico City for the FIBA Americas Championship (Aug 1-7) on July 29.
Caldwell has been itching for her shot at redemption and a chance to bring home a gold medal to match her sister, who won championships at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The Caldwell sisters always have been competitive in just about everything they do.
Take choosing colleges for instance. Receé initially went to UCLA before transferring to Texas Tech and then again moving to Cal this year as a graduate transfer. While watching her sister play at UCLA, Desiree took a liking to the Bruins’ archrival USC. So, that is where she began her freshman year earlier this summer.
“I’m just really focusing on getting stronger and enhancing all of my skills just to adjust to this next level of basketball,” Caldwell said. “I’ve been shooting a lot because I know that’s going to be a major asset for me going on to this next level. So basically strength, shooting and tuning everything up to automatic.”
Caldwell played basketball strictly for fun until she was 10 years old. At that point, as she watched her teenage sister blossoming into a strong talent, she decided that she, too, wanted a future in the sport. Caldwell told her father, and the plan to transform her into a true point guard began to take shape.
“He’s been grooming me my whole life, obviously,” Caldwell said. “He’s been my coach forever. He really instilled that floor general mentality in me from a very young age.”
Caldwell will play with a familiar face on the U18 team this summer. NaLyssa Smith and Caldwell were teammates for several years on an AAU team in Texas. Smith said she loves having Caldwell as a teammate.
“She’s real vocal,” Smith said. “So, she’s never going to have you like clueless out there. She’ll talk you through the play like if there is a screen or something, She’ll yell out, ‘Screen, screen, screen.’ She's a true point guard. She’s going to help you.
“When you don’t know your position, she’ll always know it and she’s always talking. So you’re always going to know what to do, you’re always going to know what the coach said, cause she’s going to repeat it. She’s like the point guard you want to play with. She’s going to make sure she has her job done and your job done.”
Caldwell played four varsity seasons in high school at three different high schools. She was named to the 2018 Texas Girls Coaches Association All-State and Legacy All-Star teams as a senior when she put together statistical averages that might make an NBA star blush.
She scored 19 points with seven rebounds, eight assists and five rebounds per game. It’s no wonder she was a highly sought after recruit. Caldwell credits her father for building her confidence and grit on and off the court. She says during her early days at USC this summer, coaches haven’t always been around to motivate players to get their work in. Caldwell needs no such motivation because her father’s voice is always there.
“Always, when I go train, I always hear his voice in the back of my mind, and that’s what really pushes me throughout my workouts,” she said.
Kyle Ringo is a freelance contributor toUSAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.