Since then I've been stuck in an endless loop of phone tag with Caruso's high school coach Chuck Rapp. I was able to finally get Coach Rapp on the phone this afternoon and the conversation was well worth the wait. Rapp compared Caruso to another future Tiger he coached several years back who developed into an All-Ivy performer and shared a story about a key champion in Caruso's recruitment.
Quotes from our conversation plus links and videos featuring Caruso can all be found after the jump.
"For us Henry’s been playing power forward. He’s a three year varsity player and one of the hardest-working players I’ve ever had. He’s the first one in practice, last one to leave. First one in the door, last off the floor," Rapp said during the middle of a P.E. class he was overseeing. "He’s got a great work ethic, is always working on his game and is one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached. He plays really hard and always gives his best effort. An outstanding defender who can score and rebound."
While Caruso averaged 16 points and eight rebounds for the Padres from the low post, that's not where Rapp envisions him playing at Princeton.
"At the college level I see him probably stretching his game out a little bit to where he’ll be playing at the wing," Rapp revealed. "He’s got the abilities to do that. We’re at a little bit of a disadvantage size-wise so we’ve been forced to play him down at the block – he has great post moves with his back to the basket – but I think his future vocation in basketball is going to be at the wing. He definitely has the ability to stretch out his game. He can make three pointers and he handles the ball well. I think he’s going to be an outstanding addition to Princeton."
Rapp is confident Caruso's vivacity will endear himself to Tiger followers.
"I think he’ll be a fan favorite out there because he is out here. He’ll take a charge, he’ll get on the floor for loose balls, he’s got tireless intensity and he’s one of the hardest-working players I’ve ever had at Serra," Rapp said. "Having our best player be our hardest-working guy is sometimes kind of a rare thing."
Like so many recent Princeton recruits, a trip to Jadwin Gym over the summer for the program's Elite Camp once again proved crucial.
"I believe [Princeton's staff first] caught a hold of him in some summer tournaments he was playing at AAU," Rapp recalled. "They saw him in a couple of those and they liked what they saw. They invited him to the Princeton summer camp and from what I understood he did a great job up there. I know he caught the eye of Pete Carril who thought he was one of the best players at the camp and has become one of Henry’s biggest boosters. He was really advocating for Henry and became a big fan of his."
Carril's endorsement still carries great weight with the Tiger coaches. It also left a mark on Caruso's parents.
"I know Carril pulled him aside and said some real nice things to Henry and his family in the parking lot when he was leaving the camp," Rapp shared. "The family really got a kick out of and appreciated a legend like Pete Carril taking an interest in their son."
Rapp sees Caruso continuing to work on his perimeter skills as he begins his senior season. As a junior Caruso was already a key member of a 24-6 team made it to the Central Coast Section Division II title game.
"He’s been working tirelessly on stretching out his game and I think you’ll see an improvement making three pointers, handling the ball out on the perimeter and doing more wing/guard-orientated stuff," the veteran Serra coach stated.
A former baseball standout, Caruso gave up that sport following a wrist injury to focus on the hardwood.
"He was good. He would have done well in football too," Rapp recounted. "He’s a good athlete. I know the baseball program was sad to see him go. I believe he got hurt diving back into second base on a pickoff play. That was kind of the end of his baseball career."
Now in his 14th season coaching out of the West Catholic Athletic League, Rapp saw another former Padre leave his program six years ago on the path to great success at Princeton - Dan Mavraides.
While Caruso and Mavraides are different types of players at completely different positions, Rapp still views a strong analogy between the pair.
"There’s a lot of similarities between Danny and Henry in terms of competitiveness," said Rapp. "We do a lot of competitive stuff where the losing team runs and the winning team gets water – those guys just hate to lose and they both share that trait."
"I remember talking to the Princeton coaches about Danny and some of the similar impressions that I have for Henry, I had for Danny at the time," Rapp concluded. "I could definitely see [a comparable career] happening."
Time will tell, but with memories of an incredible 2010-11 season still fresh the association is a fetching one off in the distance.
Rivals said of Caruso: The top returner for the Padres, he is ranked No. 20 in the NCP Top 40 for the 2013 class as a 3-star prospect. Good pick-up for Princeton.
A different Rivals article following Serra's victory over St. Francis stated: Caruso put together another great game, with 24 points and seven rebounds. He always attacks the glass on both ends of the floor, and is a high-energy guy. The junior also knocked down 10 of 13 free throws and could become an intriguing prospect if he develops more of a perimeter game.
After the 2012 Nor Cal Summer Tip Off Hoop Review said of Caruso, who plays his AAU basketball for Lakeshow Pump N Run: Strong body. Plays every possession HARD. Runs court hard. Finishes at the rim with either hand. Good defender and rebounder. Finds a way!
Caruso was an invitee to the NorCal Finest Super 100 Basketball Camp.
Some 2011-12 stats can be found on a MaxPreps site.
He was also an All-State nominee for ESPNHS' CIF Central Coast Section.
This piece mentions Caruso held an offer from Chico State.
Junior year mixtape.
An alley-oop dunk.
There are many more videos to be sought out here if you have the time.