It’s New Mexico’s version of “Hoosiers,” says Ben Caton, and who’s to disagree?
Just as generation after generation of boys played basketball at Milan High (Hickory High in the 1986 flick, “Hoosiers”), so, too, have several generations played the game here in the Land of Enchantment.
The youngest one, Keagan Caton, now stars for Rio Rancho High School.
To get there — to be considered a star — the Rams senior has “worked his tail off,” his dad, Ben Caton, said.
Rams head coach Wally Salata agrees. It’s not a fluke Caton has scored in double figures in the team’s first 10 games, been deadly from the foul line and comes up with timely rebounds at both ends of the floor.
“The reason why Keagan is where he’s at right now, is because Keagan has put the hours in to become a good high school basketball player,” said Salata of the boy who was only a bench player as an eighth-grader for an undefeated Lincoln Middle School team four years ago.
“He has put thousands of hours — I’m gonna say thousands, not hundreds — of hours in the gym to be where he’s at right now,” Salata said. “Wherever he’s at, he’ll stay late and shoot 30, 45 minutes. Early in the year, he was coming in at 7 in the morning. The kid wants to be successful and now he is because he put the work in.
“And that’s a shout-out to the rest of the kids out there that want to become a good high school basketball player: You’ve got to put the time in,” Salata added. “You’ve got to get out there and work on your game. If you do that, I promise you’ll be successful.”
Keagan’s favorite player is Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks.
Keagan said he has “two different levels to my game: I can shoot, so that gives me a threat from outside, and I can also drive and pull up pretty good.
“My dad coaches us during the summer; he coaches a lot of us,” he said. “He takes us to tournaments and stuff.”
Ranking 12th in the RRHS Class of 2022 with a 4.1 grade-point average, one gets the feeling Keagan will certainly be successful, because it might not be on the court.
He’s planning to go on a two-year mission for his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“He’s had some small colleges look at him,” says Ben Caton. “But they don’t offer engineering — a lot of them don’t. He’s dead-set on being an engineer. We had some contacts, and they’ve asked for game film, so he might have a shot at walking on somewhere. He’s got really good grades.”
Ben doesn’t take much of the credit for his son’s late rise to excellence on the hardwood.
“Keagan has worked his tail off,” he said. “He has the discipline; I’m there to accommodate and help him. So we lift together; we’re in the gym together practically every day. He does ball-handling in the kitchen, on the tile floor, every day.”
No. 24 of the Rams isn’t perfect: “He needs to work on his quickness,” Ben said. “He’s been working on that self-confidence, too. He loves the aspiration of being the best he can be — that’s what really drives him. Of course, he has the dream of playing college basketball. We hope that works out.”
At least two colleges have interest in Caton: Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo., and Dixie State in St. George, Utah.
“I’ve been working on getting myself out there,” he said. “I personally just want to be more of a play-maker. … I want to be able to give other people shots.”
Ben Caton has coached youth teams, with current Rams and seniors Jeremiah Morris and Andrew Sanchez longtime teammates. Keagan’s played with Andrew Archuleta “since fifth or sixth grade; Jeremiah since eighth grade.”
The Ben Caton family moved to Rio Rancho, where Ben is a State Farm Insurance supervisor, when Keagan was a third-grader.
One reason for the family settling in the City of Vision was because of the Mormon Church on Loma Colorado Boulevard, across from RRHS — where Ben and Keagan work on shooting before every Rams home game.