Guy Dossi
The Union Democrat

Kyle Gouveia may look different than he did while playing basketball at Calaveras High School during his senior year back in 2013-14. He’s taller, measuring at 6-foot-8, bigger, tipping the scales at 235 pounds, and has a flowing locks of hair that are much different than the shaved head he sported in high school.

But one thing remains the same, Gouveia is still dominating on the court.

In his third year at Stanislaus State, Gouveia has become the cornerstone of the team and is in the middle of a very strong junior season. He is averaging 11.8 points per game, 7 rebounds and has a team-high 14 blocks.

Stanislaus head coach Larry Reynolds is starting to get what he imagined of Gouveia when he recruited the 2013-14 co-Mother Lode League MVP. But it took Gouveia a while to get used to playing such stronger competition than he was seeing in high school.

“He was a big kid when we recruited him and he showed that he had the ability to rebound the basketball and score inside,” Reynolds said. “But he wasn’t playing against strong competition night in and night out. The biggest difference is that now he’s grown into a big man and he’s the man in the middle for us. His maturity and work ethic has been tremendous, but I think he had that in high school.”

While at Calaveras, there was not many opponents who could slow Gouveia down. If anything, it was foul trouble that landed him a spot on the bench rather than what other teams were doing to him.

Yet it didn’t take long for Gouveia to realize that, when it comes to playing college basketball, he was a little fish in a huge pond.

“I high school, it was easy to be slower and bigger than everybody,” Gouveia said. “But here, there are guys who are just as big as me and stronger and faster. It’s a lot harder and a big step up from high school to here.”

Making the adjustment

Gouveia knew that playing in college was going to be more difficult than in high school, but he didn’t know to what extent. Fortunately for Gouveia, who is majoring in kinesiology, he had help setting up his school schedule so it would not interfere with practice, yet he would have the adequate amount of time to focus on his classes.

During his freshman year, he had class from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and then go to practice at 3:30 p.m. Living the structured student-athlete lifestyle was something that Gouveia enjoyed.

“It wasn’t that bad,” he said. “It was actually kind of nice. Now that I’m setting up my own schedule, it’s the same thing. Everything is set up around practice and time in the weight room.”

Gouveia put in time at practice, in the weight room and in the classroom. But where he didn’t see a lot of time during his freshman year was on the court. He averaged 10 minutes per game, and scored 1.5 points and grabbed 2.4 rebounds. The most points he scored in a game all year was nine and boards was eight.

“During my freshman year, I’d get in, mess up real quick and then I’d be in my head and get nervous,” Gouveia said.

After his freshman year, Gouveia knew that he couldn’t take any time off from the court. He had made progress during the year, but in order to continue to improve, he had to make basketball a 12-month commitment.

“You have to work all year,” he said. “If you take two or three months off, you lose it. You come back and you’re not as fast or as explosive.”

His offseason work paid off and he enjoyed a strong sophomore season. Gouveia averaged 25 minutes, 9.7 points, seven rebounds and finished the year with 27 blocks. He had 10 games where he scored 10 or more points, including four in a row to end the season (13, 21, 20, 25). He had seven games where he pulled down 10 or more rebounds.

“Even though he didn’t play a lot of minutes last year, he was one of our top-3 scorers,” Reynolds said. “He carries a lot of guys on his back and he’s done a tremendous job and he works so hard, not only in the weight room, but on his game.”

Even though he had an impressive sophomore season, it wasn’t until midway through the year that the game started to slow down and he felt as if he truly belonged on the court.

“It wasn’t until early January, I got in and it just seemed like I could grab rebounds, play hard and not mess up,” Gouveia said. “It was a lot easier.”

Gouveia finished the season third on the team in scoring with 242 points and first in rebounds with 176.

The quiet leader

With the success of his sophomore season, it was no surprise that Reynolds was going to expect more from Gouveia this year. He was named as a team captain and had no problem being looked at as a leader.

“He’s a quiet leader and leads by example,” Reynolds said. “He doesn’t say a whole lot, but when he does say something, people listen. He’s kind of taken on that role because he’s been here for three years. He’s to the point that guys respect what he does on the court and they follow him.”

But sometimes Gouveia takes the “silent” leader role to the extreme. When the clock signifies an hour-and-a-half until game time, he stops talking. Gouveia likes to focus on the upcoming game and not get distracted by other pregame issues.

However, once Gouveia takes the floor, he lets his play do all the talking. But now that he has become known as a game-changer, teams are starting to focus on him and try to slow him down.

“At the beginning of games, teams will see that we like to go inside a lot and they will double team me, so I have to be able to kick it out,” Gouveia said. “I don’t like coming into the game thinking that I’m going to score this many points. I’ll post up and if it’s a good move and I’ve got it, I’ll take it. But if not, I’ll kick it out.”

Heading into this season, Gouveia not only wanted to improve his free throw shooting, but he also wanted to develop an all-around post game.

“Instead of just one hook shot, I wanted to develop a left hook, a spin, the jumper, I just wanted to expand my game,” he said.

As Gouveia continues to improve, the expectations he has from his coach get higher and higher. He has proven to be one of the best post players in the league, and in Reynolds mind, a double-double every night isn’t a long shot.

“Kyle is one that’s not really satisfied with where he is now,” Reynolds said. “He wants to get better and strives to get better and he wants to be in a program that’s successful. I think with him in the program for another year, this program is going to be very successful.”

Keeping Calaveras close

Even though he is in his third year of college, Gouveia makes the nearly 80-mile drive back home from Stanislaus State to West Point. In the spring he tries to catch as many of his brothers baseball games at Calaveras as he can. He also tries to see a game or two during basketball season.

Catching up with Kraig Clifton, his former Calaveras coach, is something he enjoys doing before watching the game. For it was Clifton that helped prepare Gouveia for what was to come in college.

“He didn’t sugarcoat anything,” Gouveia said. “He really worked on me expanding my game. He wanted me to know how to post up and box out. Boxing out was a huge thing that I learned with Clifton. Guys are so big in high school, they didn’t have to box out. They could just jump up and grab it. But at Calaveras, it was pounded into us that we need to box out and get the rebound.”

But the one thing that Gouveia has not been able to duplicate from his high school days was shattering the glass backboard on a dunk.

In a game against the Sonora Wildcats in San Andreas, Gouveia got the ball with a running start and nobody in front of him. He took two powerful steps and slammed the ball home. The force of the dunk was so strong that he smashed the backboard as glass came pouring onto the floor.

He has told the story to teammates, but it isn’t until they see the footage that they believe the tale. And thus far, that was the only backboard that has had its career shortened by Gouveia.

“They are a little more sturdy here,” laughed Gouveia. “They change them out a little bit more than at Calaveras.”

Contact Guy Dossi at (209) 588-4538 and and follow him on Twitter at @DossiGuy