Arnold Siblings Live and Breathe Pali High Basketball
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
In the Arnold household, basketball isn’t merely a recreational activity. No, it’s more like a way of life. Rarely do four members of one family play the same sport for the same school at the same time, but that is the case for Caden Arnold and his sisters Sammie, Taylor and Elise, who are all contributing to the success of the Palisades High program.
A 6-foot-4 senior wing on the varsity boys squad, Caden has embraced the “big brother” role.
“It puts a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to be a role model for my sisters,” he says. “They follow in the path that I create and they can learn from my successes and failures. There’s no better feeling than seeing my sisters succeed. Even if I don’t show it, I’m always happy for them.”
Caden grew up watching and admiring the Clippers (until 2009) and now the Lakers, Trail Blazers and Pacers and he cites Kobe Bryant, Paul George, Baron Davis, Victor Oladipo and Damian Lillard as his favorite NBA stars who have inspired him to work harder.
“The best advice I’ve given to my sisters is to remember to be who they are,” says Caden, who has played for a number of club teams over the years—Invitation Only, 323 Hoops, Wolfpack, Sole Brothers (his favorite), Cali Stars and Los Angeles Elite. “If they let others be the only reason for their happiness then they need to look in the mirror and make sure they can be happy with themselves.”
Sooner or later, talk around the dinner table eventually turns to the subject of basketball.
“Most conversations with my sisters are about funny videos we see or movies we think each of us would like to watch,” Caden says. “We talk basketball, but mostly that occurs when we have a game soon or after a game.What I like most about basketball is dominating my opponent. When I make the game a challenge for the other team I thrive in the environment and learn new skills. In basketball there is always something to work on, achieve, celebrate, strengthen, and hopefully win over, which is why I love the sport.”
When he’s not shooting hoops Caden enjoys hanging out with his girlfriend, playing video and board games, watching sports and trying out new restaurants. In August he helped the USA Youth team (18U) win the gold medal at the European Maccabi Games in Budapest, Hungary.
“My favorite memory at Pali was after my sophomore year on JV when I found out I made varsity,” he adds. “My plans after high school are to play college and pro basketball, then hopefully pursue a career in sports management, preferably with an NBA team.”
Colleges Caden is considering are UC Davis, Linfield College, Cal Lutheran, Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham and UC Santa Cruz.
“I’m considering them because I’m interested in their basketball programs, their majors and their schools in general,” he says.
Caden prides himself on defense and Pali High boys coach Donzell Hayes, a Dolphins alum, most appreciates his willingness to do all the “little” things needed to win, like taking a charge, boxing out on a rebound and guarding the other team’s best scorer.
“Caden’s a glue guy, he does a lot of dirty work for us,” Hayes says. “He’ll always do whatever you need him to do and as of late his ‘third eye’ has awakened.”
Sammie is a 5-8 junior guard whose clutch shooting was a big reason why Palisades’ girls team won the City Division I championship last winter and, with the help of her sisters, she wants to lead the Dolphins to the Open Division crown this season. She looks up to her brother most.
“The best thing I’ve learned from Caden is the importance of doing nice things for others,” she says. “He is one of the most caring people I know. Even though we don’t always get along or agree on everything, he always knows how to do nice things for everyone around him.”
Just like Caden gives counsel to her, Sammie offers words of wisdom to her younger siblings.
“I give my sisters a lot of advice, whether it’s managing school with basketball, dealing with friends or anything else,” she says. “I try to tell them about being a positive leader and how it’s important to push through when you feel like quitting. I share with them that it’s about the process and the journey rather than the destination. In my house, if we’re not talking about basketball, we’re playing it and if we’re not playing it we’re watching it. My sisters and I talk mostly about basketball, friends, and high school musicals.”
Sammie’s favorite aspect of the sport she loves is the relationships she has created with teammates, coaches and even players from different teams and clubs.
“I have so many memories of team dinners, long drives to tournaments, crazy wins, tough car rides home after bad games, and yet every one of those memories has made me into the player and person I am today,” she says. “My favorite part of the game is shooting because it’s what I’m best at. There’s nothing like hitting that big shot in the fourth quarter to help ice the win.”
Sammie’s club teams have been Wolfpack (third to seventh grade), Cal Storm in the summer before ninth grade, TVT from ninth to 10th grade and last summer she played for West Coast Elite on the 16U Under Armor Circuit Team. When she’s not working on her jump shot she’s usually hanging out with her friend Hailey Heirigs (captain of the Pali High softball team), relaxing or watching TV or movies.
“My favorite memory besides winning City last year was our game against Brentwood in the first round of state playoffs,” Sammie recalls. “It was amazing to see so many people come to the game and be loud and cheer. The energy was incredible and it definitely helped us secure the win. Not to mention, we had to get the ‘Sunset Showdown’ revenge win for the football team.”
Twins Taylor and Elise, 5-10 freshman forwards, have logged significant minutes off the bench and feed off each others’ energy. They played for Wolfpack, Sole Sisters, Cal Storm and TVT.
“From Sammie I’ve learned to put in extra work outside of school and from Caden I’ve learned to be aggressive,” says Taylor, the older twin by five minutes. “The advice Elise and I give each other is to just play our hearts out no matter what. Having my twin sister on the same team as me is really special even though most of our teammates can’t tell the difference and just call us ‘twin.’ I get to play basketball with my best friend and she makes playing the sport more fun. We get along most of the time, like all siblings we argue but we get over it in five minutes. We have the same style, taste in music, food and the same friends, but we’re also different and have different work ethics. My favorite part of the game is probably dribbling. I have to work on it but I love knowing there are many possibilities when the ball’s in my hands. I also like being in the post and getting opportunities to make passes or go to the basket. We love playing against each other as it pushes us to be better.”
Adds Elise: “We try talking about other things like my mom’s tennis but basketball is the main topic. Having Taylor on the team is great. When I feel like I’m not playing well she knows me and can help me get back into a better mental state. It’s also super fun having my best friend right next to me all the time. We share two classes together, media pod and P.E. We’re like the same person. We have the same fashion sense and like the same trends. We get along most of the time, but we do fight over stupid things like who gets to sit in the front seat. We mostly played on the same teams, except in practice they put us on opposite sides sometimes so I can lock up Taylor. Although I’ve never seen dad play a game of basketball I’ve heard he was a big baller. He inspires me.”
Palisades pilot Adam Levine, who coached all three Arnold sisters (along with Dolphins teammate Sofia Canter) and their L.A. Westside team to the gold medal at the U.S. Maccabi Games in Atlanta last summer, is thrilled to see them reunited on varsity.
“Sammie’s one of the hardest working players and her issue at first was putting things together in games—she was too high or too low—but she’s our hungriest player and puts in as many hours as anyone on the team,” Levine says. “The twins are the sweetest girls, they always have smiles on their faces. They’ve played club for me and Maccabi too so I’m quite familiar with their games. They’re nice, but also tough.”
Where do the Arnold siblings get their basketball genes?
“Most likely me as I’ve been coaching them since they were 4 or 5 years old,” jokes their father Michael, who was born and raised in Westwood, won a state title at Crossroads High in 1988 and went on to play at UC Davis, then professionally in Israel. He was a member of the USA Maccabi national team that won gold in 2011 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Their mother Stacey is from South Bend, Indiana, but moved to Los Angeles 24 years ago. While she doesn’t have basketball in her blood, she’s a competitive tennis player, provides dedication and focus and like their dad is a regular at Palisades games.
All four Arnold children went to Overland Elementary, where Caden and current Pali High teammate Dylan Griffin were on the 4th/5th-grade team that won the LA City Elementary School League. They all went to Paul Revere Middle School, where the Arnold girls joined current Pali High teammates Canter, Alexis Pettis and Rose Morris on a squad that went 12-0 and won the Junior Delphic League title.