Putting the ball in the back of the cage has never been a problem for Buchanan High boys water polo player Kyle Kittlitz.
He scored a school-record 125 goals as a junior and eclipsed that mark with 128 as a senior.
But it was the development of his overall game that helped Kittlitz lead the Bears to the Central Section Division I title after Buchanan had finished runner-up the previous two seasons.
"I had to change how I played in order for us to do better," said Kittlitz, a three-year varsity player. "I couldn't just score every goal because people would realize all you had to do was shut me down. I had to get my teammates to shoot the ball more and make them more of a part of our offense."
Kittlitz, The Bee's Boys Water Polo Player of the Year, enlisted the help of no less an authority than U.S. Olympian and former Buchanan star Rick Merlo during the summer.
Merlo tutored Kittlitz on his defense, particularly his 2-meter defense, and also on improving his passing and body positioning.
"It took my game to a whole other level," said Kittlitz, who has drawn college interested from UC Irvine and Long Beach State.
Despite Buchanan finishing second to Clovis West in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, Kittlitz was still the league's player of the year, and he showed off his overall game with 66 steals and 44 assists.
"As the season progressed, he became more than a scorer," Buchanan coach Dave Pickford said. "He evolved. He was getting as much satisfaction from blocking shots, or a nice assist or drawing a kickout.
"He's a young man who's really worked hard at becoming better, a lot of lifting and swimming. He did things that can be drudgerous to kids who just want to play the game. He saw it as necessary to get better."
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