It’s easy for Mike Arte to find where 5-foot-6 point guard Hannah Caudill stacks up in his 26 years as Gonzaga Prep girls basketball head coach.
“She’s by far the best on-ball defender I’ve ever had,” Arte said. “We teach kids defensively to level the player they’re defending. She does such a good job, keeping her hips square. She anticipates really well and has such good basketball instincts.”
Colleges took note last summer of not only her defensive abilities but her talents distributing the ball and shooting. Montana State University coach Tricia Binford grew especially fond of Caudill, following her as far east as Boston for a tournament.
“She was the only college coach there and she was there to watch me,” Caudill said. “That meant a lot.”
Caudill took a recruiting trip to Bozeman this fall and was convinced that was her college destination. She signed a letter of intent in November.
“Hannah is a true point guard that possesses the savvy and toughness we’re looking for,” Binford said in a college news release after Caudill signed. “Hannah is one of the best passers I have ever seen and will be able to take our tempo up another notch. Hannah is also a gamer and plays her best when the game is on the line.”
Like last year in the fourth-place game at the State 4A tournament. She scored 11 points and doled out six assists as the Bullpups had their best finish in school history.
Now Caudill wants to top that. Nothing less than a state championship will be satisfying.
Arte was asked what comes to mind when he thinks of three adjectives – sparkplug, firecracker, feisty.
“Yes, they describe Hannah,” Arte said. “She’s really feisty in everything she does. She’s such a competitor and doesn’t like to lose. It’s interesting in our culture that you say the word competitive and people put it in the negative ledger for people. To have a basketball player who is a competitor is a positive trait. She hates to perform poorly. She’s her own worst enemy. She wants to do everything perfect.”
Caudill started playing AAU with junior guard Laura Stockton in the fourth grade. The duo has been inseparable since.
“They have a unique relationship,” Arte said. “They’re almost like twin sisters on the floor. They know where they’ll be all the time.”
They usually divvy up most of the 13 assists G-Prep averages per game.
Caudill averaged 10.5 points and 5.6 assists per game last year. She knew that to be successful at the next level, though, she had to improve her outside shooting. There were many days last spring and summer she would end up taking 1,000 shots – most of which were 3-pointers.
“Before this season I was a pure passer and felt comfortable getting other people the ball,” she said. “In the back of my mind I felt like I was being selfish if I shot. But I know I have to be able to score in college.”
Arte noticed a hitch in Caudill’s perimeter shot. Her release point was too low for her height.
“We got her to move the release point up,” he said. “When she keeps it up she’s a great 3-point shooter.”
Caudill, who is averaging 13.1 points this season, is shooting a team-best 42 percent from 3-point range.
“She’s an amazing shooter,” Stockton said. “And she’s a great, great defender.”
Stockton said she and Caudill have something akin to telepathy on the court.
“She’s a great leader,” Stockton said. “Everyone follows her example on the court.”
Arte has just one criticism. At times this season Caudill has settled for taking 3-point shots instead of driving to the basket. He’d like her to use her quickness more to beat defenders.
One statistic she’s not pleased with is turnovers. She’s committed a team-leading 54 through 18 games.
“I’m making the wrong turnovers at the wrong time,” she said. “They’re really immature mistakes that I shouldn’t be making. They seem to come at critical times.”
Said Arte: “When things don’t go well she’s the first to admit it. You can see it sometimes with her body expressions. That’s probably where I’m most proud of her. She’s had to work very hard on her demeanor. She’s progressed and grown as a young lady.”
Caudill expects to take her play up a notch or two in the final stretch of the season.
“I’ve sort of hit a little funk the last couple of games,” she said. “I haven’t been fully healthy since Christmas. I’m not using that as an excuse, though. I’m working hard to get things turned around.”
As much as Caudill has improved as an offensive threat, she takes most pride in defense.
“I like to make other players frantic, hold my ground and get into players’ heads,” she said.