ESCONDIDO — Khyber “Khy” Kabellis heard it his entire life — you’re not a Division 1 basketball player.
You’re too slow. You’re too short. You’re too skinny.
“Skinny” was the one that stuck.
Kabellis heard it from scouts, opponents and coaches. But he didn’t let it deter him.
This month, Kabellis finally got to prove them wrong.
The 6-foot-3, 165-pound Escondido High point guard verbally committed to play basketball at North Dakota State University, becoming the fifth North County basketball player from the 2015 class to commit to a Division 1 school.
“It’s unreal, it’s such a great opportunity for me,” Kabellis told The Coast News this week. “I had been hearing ‘You’re too skinny’ my entire life. It’s a blessing to be in this position.”
But it wasn’t easy.
Entering into his sophomore year, when he transferred to Escondido from La Jolla Country Day, Kabellis stood 5-foot-10 and weighed less than 140 pounds. The left-handed guard, who said he knew he wanted to play college ball since he was in the 6th grade, knew he had his work cut out for him.
He began to train every day during the offseason, lifting, working on his explosiveness, hoping to add weight and pop to his slight frame.
At the same time, Kabellis started to grow physically. By the end of his sophomore year, he was 6-feet. By the start of his junior year, he was nearly 6-foot-2. He currently hovers just under 6-foot-4.
Still, even with the growth spurt, colleges weren’t convinced Kabellis could withstand the beating that a point guard takes in the paint at the Division 1 level. Schools would show interest, but it would be fleeting.
By the start of his senior year, Boston University, the one school seriously recruiting him at the time and the school he called “his dream school,” opted to offer another guard, again because of concerns about his frame.
This was the one time, Kabellis said, that he started to doubt if he would every realize his dream.
“I didn’t have any Division 1 interest, so I really started to think about Point Loma Nazarene seriously,” Kabellis said about the local Division 2 university, which had recruited him since his junior year.
Kabellis also took an official visit to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which has a Division 1 basketball program, but said it was not a good fit.
Then, one day in October, his varsity coach, Paul Baldwin, approached him after nutrition and told him that a coach from North Dakota State called and sounded interested in him.
Kabellis called back, and the conversation lasted for 20 minutes, and he and the coach texted each other back and forth for another hour.
A few weeks later, Bison Assistant Coach Jayden Olson was at Kabellis’ practice to watch him work out. The school quickly scheduled Kabellis to visit the campus January 2 and 3, the day of a big home game against Summit League rival Oral Roberts University.
Kabellis, who maintains a 3.8 grade-point average, toured the school’s academic and athletic facilities and got to check out some of Fargo, where the university is located.
“The trip was amazing,” Kabellis said. “Before I visited, I thought Fargo was just some town in the middle of nowhere, but it was a very nice city.
“The biggest thing that stood out to me was their tremendous fan support. They were able to practically sell out a large arena on winter break when most of the students were away,” Kabellis added.
Shortly after he returned from the trip, Kabellis made his pledge, completing the Bison’s four player class.
Kabellis said committing has taken a huge weight off of his shoulders, and has allowed him to turn his full attention to his senior year and leading his Cougars team to a CIF championship, a year after falling short in the Division 1 semifinals.
“I can finally kind of relax now that I am committed,” Kabellis said. “I just really want to win league, beat San Marcos and beat Mission Hills (Escondido’s chief rivals) and make a run and possibly be in the (CIF) Open Division or Division 1 and win CIF.