Kaleb Lichau has plans. Big plans — as big as his wingspan.
The 6-foot-8 Peninsula High School senior forward recently committed to play Division-I basketball at the United States Air Force Academy.
He has been a force to be reckoned with for the Seahawk, with last year being his best yet. He averaged 10.9 points per game and 7.7 rebounds. What really set him apart was his 5.75 blocks per game, good for 115 total blocks on the season.
As he brings these skills to the college level, his plans don’t only entail playing for the Falcons. Yes, he did mention wanting to meet noted alumni Gregg Popovich, but that wasn’t what made his decision an easy one.
Lichau has aspirations of becoming a doctor which drove his decision to attend the school.
“I want to be a doctor and it kind of sets me up for the rest of my life,” Lichau said. “I have to go to school for four years. They pay for everything and then I have to serve for five extra years. But if I go to med school, they pay for my med school and I have to serve for nine total years.”
As for what type of medical field he would want to go into, he is keeping an open mind and hasn’t committed to anything despite having some general ideas about his direction. “I’m not sure yet. I think I want to be a surgeon,” Lichau said. “I’m majoring in biology.”
Military service wasn’t something that he always saw in his future but after doing his research, he decided it would be a good fit to set him up for the future goals he had for himself.
“The opportunity came up,” Lichau said. “Financially, it’s kind of a great situation.”
It ended up being an easy decision for him as he quickly committed after going on what only needed to be a single visit.
“I went on my official visit,” Lichau said. “I just fell in love with the academy. The coaching staff is amazing. All of the guys are pretty cool.”
That first visit was something Lachau talked through as being a comprehensive and compelling experience for him. It was equal parts academic and sports related, playing to both of his interests.
“The first day, we went to class, toured the campus, and just got a feel for the place academically,” Lichau said. “The second day, we toured all the athletic facilities. I actually watched film with the head coach and broke down what I would do for them.”
As he toured the campus, he got to observe more high tech and top of the line facilities than he had been used to.
“They were amazing. The weight room was massive. They’re having a 1.5 million dollar renovation on it this January,” Lichau said. “The basketball facilities were super nice. It’s all high tech. There were chips in the balls that track your shot as it goes in, how many shots you take. It’s really high class.”
How does it work to microchip a basketball and connect it to the players on the court? He was able to get a look at that part too.
“You put a little tag on your shoe and it tracks where you are on the court. Then it sends all of the date to iPads and it shows where you’re shooting from, if the ball goes in or not, who passed it to you,” Lichau said. “I don’t even know. It’s crazy.”
It wasn’t all business and no play on the visit. He also got to meet the team and experience some of the social atmosphere of the school. “I got to hang out with the guys a lot. We went to a football game,” Lichau said. “It was pretty cool.”
So while this wasn’t the only school on his list, it ended up becoming clear that it was the only one that was for him.
“I was looking at Cornell and UC San Diego, both for basketball,” Lichau said. “But I mean, I went on my visit to Air Force and I was just kind of like, ‘You know, I think this is my place.’”
Lichau was drawn to the community and culture he found there.
“I like how I’ll fit into their offense and the coaches are amazing there and all the players are just really quality guys. I want to be part of that culture and that family,” Lichau said. “I just felt like I had a solid connection with the coaches.”
What does that culture look like? Lichau felt it matched his own levels of commitment and work ethic while also being a group that can enjoy the process.
“I think they’re all very motivated. They all like to have fun,” Lichau said. “They’re really laid back.”
Getting into the details, how does he anticipate he will fit into their offense? He sees himself getting a lot of touches on the ball as one of the taller players on the court.
“They run the Princeton offense and their big guys touches the ball almost every possession,” Lichau said. “I have to be able to shoot, I have to be able to play inside, I have to be able to pass. I can do all those things.”
The only downside for Lichau is that there isn’t an option to red shirt. All of the incoming players have to play at the prep school before they can start for the team.
Still, that didn’t dampen his excitement too much after he talked with the rest of the players on the team to better understand the process.
“The only negative for me at the beginning was having to go the prep school,” Lichau said. “But I talked to all the guys on my visit. They all went to the prep school and said it was the greatest year of their lives. They loved it and that made me feel a lot better about it.”
So even if he has to wait a bit, he has accepted that this is part of the process to getting where he wants to be.
“I’ve definitely accepted it,” Lichau said. “I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be great for me.”
He plans to make the most of that time to better himself and his play.
“I think I could get stronger. I think I could develop my game a lot more,” Lichau said.
What are these aspects of his game that he hopes to fine tune and work on until that time he steps out on the court? He has a couple things in mind that he wants to target specifically.
“Definitely getting stronger. Putting more weight on,” Lichau said. “One of my personal goals is just working on my ball handling and my ability to score outside because they need me to do that and I want to be able to do that.”
He is already laying the framework for that growth and putting in an intense amount of work to make sure he is ready to be his best when the time comes.
“I’ve been working out four days a week. Eating four thousand calories a day,” Lichau said. “Basketball wise, I’ve just been in the gym a lot. Just doing all the little things to get better.”
He also has one more season at Peninsula that he hopes to finish out on top with a first time trip to state to close out his high school career.
“I just want to win league. That’s my number one goal. Make it to state. I just want to win,” Lichau said. “I think we need to get better every week. I think we need to week by week just focus on ourselves. Not on who we are playing. Not on anything else.”
His current coach Matt Robles shares in this philosophy of taking it all game by game.
“We’re just going to keep progressing, keep getting better every day,” Robles said. “All we’ve been talking about is being present. Just being where your feet are. Just getting better every day.”
So while he may be losing one of his best players, Robles expressed excitement for his future and the opportunities he will have.
“We’re excited for him. He’s worked so hard to get to this point. He’s a great young man. He’s everything you want in a student-athlete,” Robles said. “It’s going to be a tough loss and a big blow for our program. We’re going to miss him, no doubt about it.”
With all of that being said, a big motivating factor for Lichau that can get lost in all the discussions of basketball is his passion for going into the medical field. He was therefore excited to still get some time to focus on his career passions and map out what his future post college will look like.
“I actually got to meet with the director of the biology department and have a good meeting with her,” Lichau said. “She explained what it would be like for me in my four years there and what I would be doing and how I would get into med school. That made me feel a lot better.”
His passion for this career path is something that stems from a desire to help others and support those in need, something he learned from somewhere particularly close to home.
“My mom is a psychologist and I just see all the people that she helps. I want to help people,” Lichau said. “I’m good with people and I’m good with my hands. I want to make people feel better. I hate seeing people be miserable.”
So as he looks to that future that he speaks passionately, he will continue to work to make it be one where he brings not only his skills to the court but also brings his skills to something bigger than basketball: helping those in need.