The term “five-tool player” is used in baseball to describe someone that excels at hitting for average, hitting for power, base running skills and speed, throwing ability and fielding abilities. Recent Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.) graduate Cody Caldwell is boys’ high school volleyball’s version of the five-tool player.
In addition to being an accomplished hitter, Caldwell’s prowess in other key facets of the game has established him as a complete player able to contribute all over the court. Caldwell capped off his high school career with another fabulous season—one that has earned him the honor of being named the 2011 Mizuno/Volleyball Boys High School Player of the Year.
Long Beach State assistant coach John Hawks, who coaches Caldwell on the Balboa Bay 18 Quicksilver club team, is the one who used the five-tool moniker in describing the Loyola University Chicago-bound superstar.
“He’s a five-tool player,” Hawks states. “He passes at a high level, attacks well with range, blocks, serves and plays defense. He has a high volleyball IQ. He’s a fantastic volleyball player and a great kid.”
Caldwell was one of three finalists for the top boys’ high school volleyball individual honor along with Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) senior opposite Zack La Cavera and Kamehameha-Kapalama (Honolulu, Hawaii) setter Micah Christenson.
“Cody is a really unique player,” Newport Harbor setter Ian Sequeira said. “Not everyone can pass nails and serve-receive every time and be 6'6" and put away pretty much every ball. He was so automatic and has such a huge window. He’s a natural-born leader on the court and was a huge part of Newport Harbor’s success.”
Veteran Newport Harbor coach Dan Glenn has seen his fair share of top players roll through the school in his time. Glenn has coached the likes of Misty May-Treanor and April Ross on the girls’ side and players such as Hugh Foster and Caldwell’s brother, Kyle (now at UCLA). Foster is regarded as one of the all-time great boys’ high school players ever (he never lost a high school match in three years at Punahou in Hawaii and during his senior year at Harbor).
And Glenn places Cody Caldwell right up there on that elite list.
“Cody is one of the best we’ve had,” Glenn states. “We’ve had some real good players go through here. When he was younger, he was quietly good.”
Glenn marvels at Caldwell’s shopping cart full of superior skills.
“He might not be the best hitter or the best blocker, but he is so good at so many things,” the coach said.
Caldwell, an all-Orange County selection for the third year in a row (by the Orange County Register), an all-CIF Southern Section Division I choice this season and an AVCA first-team All-American, finished the year with an impressive 641 kills (6.16 per set) to go with 221 digs. He powered home 39 kills on 44 attempts with only one hitting error (which equals an almost unheard of hitting percentage of .864) in a four-set win over Huntington Beach.
And it’s not like the entire place didn’t know Caldwell was the man on the other side of the net.
“I knew people were keying on me,” Caldwell said. “I didn’t mind knowing they were keying on me. Some teams stopped me a few times, but it didn’t do too much.”
“All of the teams knew it was going to him,” Sequeira said. “Cody still finds a way to put the ball down. What impresses me the most is his ability to come through with clutch points. That is when he thrives the most and has his most success.”
Caldwell, the MVP of the recent prestigious 34th annual Dave Mohs Orange County All-Star Game at Newport Harbor, is most proud of his improvement this season as a leader.
“My play was there after being on varsity four years,” Caldwell said. “It was more about being a captain and getting everybody up to the highest level they could be. That’s where I made my biggest impact.”
Caldwell, who played in the gym at Newport Harbor named after his grandfather, George Yardley (a former Stanford and NBA basketball player), will be taking his vast volleyball talents straight to the Midwest. He’ll play for coach Shane Davis this coming season at Loyola-Chicago.
Caldwell said he had other serious interest from schools such as Long Beach State and Hawaii, but instead, chose to head to the Windy City.
“At first, I didn’t think they had much of a chance,” Caldwell said. “I loved it when I was out there. I loved the team and I loved the campus. It’s a really good school. The coaching staff is great. I’ve been out here for 18 years and know the scene. I’ll probably come back anyway. I’m excited about going away for a few years and getting a change of scenery. Loyola is the best fit for me.”
Glenn has zero doubts about his star pupil excelling at the Division I level.
“He is one of those kids that as the competition gets better, the better he will be,” Glenn says. “He’s excited about making the U.S. youth national team (19-and-under). He is one of those guys that will shine in the big situations.”
Hawks feels Caldwell will turn heads in Chicago and across the country in the years to come.
“He is going to be hard to stop in that conference,” Hawks said. “I don’t think he’s really even scratched the surface with what he could be potentially. He has player of the year ability in college. He’s one of those kinds of players you build your program around.”
Originally published in August 2011