Two contrasting things are true about the teenage years of Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv forward Angelo Caloiaro. On the one hand, he is from such an athletic family that he was bound for success. And on the other, he was so small that he hardly made an impact in any sport he played.
"Growing up I played everything. I played baseball. I played volleyball. I played football. I really loved everything," Caloiaro said. Many future professional athletes choose to stop playing multiple sports because the time comes to focus on their destined sport. For Caloiaro, the reason was much different.
"Actually, I kind of stopped playing the other sports because I developed later. I was pretty small in high school." When a 2.03-meter forward in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague talks about being small, one might take that with a grain of salt. But Caloiaro was not exaggerating. "When I got my drivers license I was 16 and it said I was 5'8” (1.72 meters) and 120 pounds (54 kg). In baseball, I was good, but I wasn't strong enough to hit the ball really far. And football, obviously, I was the littlest guy. And in basketball, you don't have to be the biggest or strongest to excel. So I kind of went towards basketball."
"My junior year in high school I was literally the last guy off the bench and on the scout team. I never played."
Though Caloiaro was talented, his lack of size kept him from getting any real playing time at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, California, whose nationally-ranked sports programs have produced many future pro players. "My junior year in high school I was literally the last guy off the bench and on the scout team. I never played. Senior year, I had a good year, but I didn't have a scholarship till the end of the season."
Caloiaro "grew quite a bit" when he was 17 and 18 years old and once he filled out and went to play college basketball at the University of San Francisco, he became the next member in a family of sports stars. Both of Caloiaro's parents played college basketball, his brother Vinny played professional soccer and sister Joan played high-level college basketball. Then there are cousins who played for the U.S.A. national teams in soccer and rugby and another, Kerri Walsh Jennings, who won three Olympic gold medals in beach volleyball.
In such a family, Caloiaro did not have to look far for inspiration. "My role models, I would say, you look up first to your parents first.
His mother, Maureen Formico-Caloiaro, is a former All-America selection and the all-time scoring leader at Pepperdine University. She has been inducted into the hall of fame at both her school and the West Coast Conference, Angelo's father, Dominik, played at De Anza College. Though he never got a chance to see his parents play competitively, Angelo knew from a young age how impressive a career his mother in particular had.
"I would go to the local high school to see my cousins play and I would see my mom's name up there. She was a two-time or three-time athlete of the year at the school. So I knew pretty early," Angelo explained. His parents both played active roles in Angelo's athletic development. "She coached me in volleyball and basketball. My dad coached me, too. They were always there; they were my coaches everywhere I would go."
Maureen and Dominik made sure that their four children stayed close with the extended family in northern California and sports was a great way not only for everyone to get together, but for a younger Angelo to gain exposure.
"They brought us to all my cousins' sporting event. It just happened to be that a lot of my cousins were great athletes, it was high-level sports that I was watching. I thought it was normal being that good, dominating your sport, whatever it was: rugby, volleyball, football. Growing up, I thought that was normal. I thought it would be an easy thing to do. Everyone does that. Obviously, that's not the case. It takes a lot of hard work."
Angelo was able to travel and learn something from almost all of the experiences around his cousins. He remembers vividly going to Hawaii to see Walsh Jennings compete in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament finals when he was 9 years old. And he saw up close how physical other sports can be at the top levels from watching cousin and national rugby team player Brian Barnard. "He's a beast. I like to get after it, but not that much!"
With Angelo settled firmly in basketball, he made a name for himself at the University of San Francisco and, following in his mother's footsteps, earned All-West Coast Conference First Team honors in 2012. Then he embarked on a professional career that has seen him play in Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Turkey and now Israel.
"You just don't want to lose so bad that you go that extra little bit, that extra work. That's definitely something my family has instilled in me."
In Germany, Angelo was able to spend a year living together with his brother. Angelo played for Mitteldeutscher in the 2013-14 season, while his brother Vinny played soccer for FC Weissenfels.
"It is definitely one of the most fun years that I've had," Angelo said. "I would go over to check out some of his games and he would come to mine. Living with your brother in a different country, experiencing the culture. It was awesome."
Even today, with Angelo living half a world away, he reflects fondly on his time with his family as a child. "We're all from the Bay Area in California, so we have tons of family parties -- Christmas, birthday parties, family get-togethers," he said, but then cautioned, they are not all for the faint of heart. "It's real competitive. We get in fights all the time over board games and stupid things just because everyone wants to win. That's just the mentality we have."
That mentality is what helped Angelo become a successful basketball player and have such a productive first season in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
"For sure that's why I'm here today. Learning that work ethic. Never wanting to lose. Not being afraid to fail, you just don't want to lose so bad that you go that extra little bit, that extra work. That's definitely something my family has instilled in me."