Every team needs its Energizer Bunny, and the Colorado State women’s basketball team has found theirs in Callie Kaiser.
The sophomore guard has worked her way into the starting lineup for the Rams and ranks fourth on the team in scoring behind Ellen Nystrom, Elin Gustavsson and Hannah Tvrdy. But the biggest difference she makes is not scoring the ball. It is what Kaiser does empty handed that makes her such a valuable asset for this team.
On an every-game basis, Kaiser’s hustle wreaks havoc on her opponents. She will sneak her way to a ball that she has no business being around, get a hand in the passing lane of the opposition or jostle around a bigger player to secure a rebound.
Kaiser is a hustler, and she embraces it.
“I definitely see myself in a (hustle) role,” Kaiser said. “I’ve always played aggressive and like to get the hustle plays and do all that, I love playing that way. I think that’s a huge part of my role on this team.”
Growing up with two older brothers, Kaiser developed a competitive drive early. As she established a determined playing style, Kaiser says that competing with a hustle-first mentality is something that comes naturally to her.
It’s a role that the former 5A Player of the Year in Colorado has held for her entire basketball career. In her senior campaign in high school, Kaiser led the Broomfield Eagles to a state championship in their first season competing at the 5A level. Her team-leading 15.9 points per game certainly warranted her the award.
But the 8.0 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game during that senior campaign show the defensive mindset she has always played with. Her transition into the defensive-oriented game plan of head coach Ryun Williams seems to be a match made in heaven.
“We really take pride in our defense,” Kaiser said. “I think (Williams) looks for those players who are gonna play hard every possession.”
For Kaiser, that has led to 1.4 steals per game, good for second on the team despite playing only the fifth most minutes per game. She has recorded two or more steals in a game on eight separate occasions this year.
“Callie is just a really tough, hard-nosed young lady that plays with a tremendous motor,” Williams said. “She has great ball instincts; she is ball hungry. She brings that energy and that style of play to our lineup, which we can feed off of.”
Even after her breakout game against New Mexico-Highlands early in the season in which she scored 20 points and flirted with a triple-double, Kaiser focused on her ability to do whatever it is that the team needs.
Especially in conference play, that has been crashing the offensive boards. For a team that rarely focuses on offensive rebounding and instead prefers to set itself defensively in the half court, Kaiser provides the much needed energy that gets the opponent out of their comfort zone.
“I always set goals for myself – offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, tips, steals,” Kaiser said. “I try to do what I can to help the team and I think getting the hustle plays helps a lot.”
Her focus on the offensive glass shows, as she leads the Rams with 1.5 offensive rebounds per game. And when she barely misses out on one, that effort is just enough to agitate her competition.
The fearlessness Kaiser exhibits when attacking offensive rebounds and loose balls matches the gritty playing style that she plays with throughout the game. Alongside continued offensive development, Williams envisions Kaiser having more responsibility the more she matures at CSU.
“She’s a very good rebounder,” Williams said. “Just an active, active player. Callie is somebody that is used to having responsibility. I think she’ll continue to grow in that role, so we surely anticipate her being a big part of how we continue to grow our program.”
As CSU enters the home stretch of its conference schedule, her grit and determination may prove more beneficial now than ever.
“I think we need to stay consistent throughout the end of the year,” Kaiser said. “I know this is the toughest time because we’re all getting tired and still trying to heal up. But just staying consistent and playing hard.”
Collegian sports reporter Colin Barnard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_