(photo: Gordon Long)
Calaveras is up there in the northern section of California and known for large trees and jumping frogs. Dillon "Tree" Autrey may just make it a county boasting a trifecta of highlights.
Autrey is a 2018 6-foot-7, 220 prospect on a squad that finished 26-3, 12-0 in Mother Lode League play. According to Calaveras High Coach Kraig Clifton. "Dillon averaged a double-double in every league game but he does it quietly. He's no ballhog, he doesn't dominate the ball."
Calaveras displayed very good chemistry this season and Autrey's spirit was a positive factor in such good team rapport.
"Coach Clifton taught us to keep our team together and it gave us strength," Autrey explained. "We changed our break chant to "Family" instead of "Calaveras." He even got us warm up shirts with "family" on the back for the playoffs this year. I can't wait to play with my school teammates next year."
In a self-effacing manner, Autrey responded with "I'm pretty good at jumping and I never get angry and won't argue with the refs" as his best basketball talents. But these elements in and of themselves won't get anyone Most Outstanding Player honors, something Autrey recently earned for his production and effect in the Mother Lode League. He can score inside and out as well as being a constant force on the boards.
But it almost wasn't basketball as the sport Autrey fully focused on -- "my brother played baseball, football and basketball and I wanted to be like him." Eventually, it was basketball first and foremost with the other two sports sliding into the background. "My Mom wanted us to play as many sports as possible growing up" but turning out to 6-foot-7 (at present) gave Autrey a leg up, two if you will, in the roundball domain.
About his size, Autrey noted, "all my life I've been a power forward" but offered "I can dribble for my size." He sees himself as a three at the college level.
He cites Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs) as a big influence but not necessarily for the reason one might expect. "I was bad at D when I was younger" and he used Leonard's effort and effect defensively as inspiration to make himself better.
Asked about providing leadership, Autrey explained, "it depends because the point should be the leader but I'll tell the guys what to do if no one is talking."
Autrey noted, "my Mom is my everything" and credits Jason Hitt (head coach at Elliot Christian High) for increasing his hoops knowledge. "My basketball IQ was really low my freshman year and playing for Coach Hitt on Port City the last two years really helped." That and exposure to better competition as Autrey recalled the multitude of roundtrip drives his family has taken to Oakland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas in order to participate in various tournaments. This year though will bring something different though -- air miles -- as his Saints Basketball squad is tripping to Paris, France in mid-June for a tournament.
He also cited Dale "Old School" Clifton, Autrey's initial high school coach who moved him to the Calaveras junior varsity as a freshman and Kraig Clifton who elevated Autrey to varsity as a sophomore and helped with the adjustment of playing with "the big boys."