Indialantic resident Max Fielder is a perfect example of what assistant coach Mike Gaudy can mean to Melbourne High School this upcoming basketball season.
Fielder was a 6-foot-1 basketball player uncertain of his future when he first enrolled in Melbourne High School. Today he’s a 6-10 freshman center and engineering student at Rice University in Houston competing for a starting job with the Owls’ basketball team.
He is what you call a project student-athlete, the kind high school coaches often dream of. He averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds his senior year for a 25-win Bulldogs team.
Fielder is the nephew of former NFL first-round draft pick Brian Bollinger, also of Indialantic. The two met recently in Houston, had dinner and talked about how Fielder may be poised to continue the legacy of their athletic family, especially if he keeps developing many of the skills he learned under Gaudy.
“I used to hang out with his kids and play sports with them,’’ said Max, who also spent a lot of his spare time working with Gaudy, who won two state titles at Cocoa Beach and was athletic director before retiring.
Mike Soliven coaxed Gaudy out of retirement to work with Fielder and the other promising athletes at Melbourne High. Gaudy and Soliven, who has won more than 500 games, got together 10 years ago to form a deadly coaching combination at Melbourne.
The Bulldogs opened their regular season on Nov. 25 at Cocoa Beach.
“I hate to be interviewed but I love to talk,’’ said Soliven. “We’re a work in progress. It’s hard to compensate for the loss of a Max Fiedler, so it’s next man up and hope that we can enjoy some success.’’
He doesn’t mind talking about Gaudy, who is now a volunteer coach. “We’ve been together since 2010,’’ Soliven said. “He’s certainly not a rival. It’s mutual respect. I have an incredible respect for Mike. We have a great relationship.’’
Gaudy decided to return to the game when he realized how much he missed working with the student-athletes.
“It’s still a chance to develop kids,’’ said Gaudy, 65, who lives in Satellite Beach. “This is a really good fit for me. It’s just a lovely school with a lot of great athletes.’’
Among those athletes Gaudy is currently helping to develop is 6-foot-7 senior forward Reggie Hill, who is already drawing interest from colleges, including Florida Gulf Coast.
“We have a lot more shooters this year,’’ Hill said. “So it will be different. We’re ready to get going.’’
Cameron Wickline is a 6-3 forward, and Josh Mims is a talented shooting guard. Carlin Gelin is a 6-6 sophomore stepping into the center spot formerly occupied by Fielder.
“Coach Gaudy worked with me a lot on my post moves,’’ Gelin said. “I feel comfortable.’’
Fielder, who weighed four to five scholarship offers before choosing Rice, averaged more than 5.0 points and led the team with 7.0 rebounds per game in the first seven games of the season for the Rice Owls. He is focused on being successful during his freshman season, but still keeping an eye on his old Bulldogs team.
“You’ve got to learn to manage your time and stay on top of everything athletically and academically,’’ he said. “(Houston) is good, I like it so far. I miss my family and friends but with technology they are pretty easy to keep up with. It’s going good, I like it here.
“I still have a group of friends (at Mel-Hi) so I still talk to them,” he added. “I know they are excited about the year coming up. They will be just fine.”
Fielder also appreciates all that Gaudy has done to prepare him for the next level. “I worked out with him a lot. He really helped me become a better player. He’s probably one of the best coaches I had. I still talk to him a lot. He just really cares about the kids.’’
Fielder’s goal is to help the Owls compete for a Conference USA title. Soliven’s goal is to rebuild the Bulldogs.
So in Indialantic the excitement is real for the start of prep and college hoops. It’s a special time for all.