Calhoun’s evolving game

Freshman guard Omar Calhoun is third on the Huskies in scoring at 11.5 poiioints per game. UConn hosts Cincinnati on Thursday in Hartford.

Freshman guard Omar Calhoun is third on the Huskies in scoring at 11.5 points per game. UConn hosts Cincinnati on Thursday in Hartford.

John F. Silver

STORRS, Conn. — The balls would come to Omar Calhoun from assistant coach Karl Hobbs and with every shot came a critique.”Use your legs more,” Hobbs repeatedly advised after practice early in the season as he fired pass after to pass to Calhoun.

The drill Calhoun was doing was a rapid fire shooting drill. He was throwing shots up at a high rate and the fatigue started to set in. Calhoun’s jumper started to wane as did his form. His shot flat, and Hobbs would tell him to work through it.

Learning how to shoot when your tired, and keeping form, is a skill that is acquired as a basketball player. That’s been as big a part of Calhoun development as a player as any since he showed up on campus.

Calhoun has talent, that much is evidenced by averaging 11.5 points per game as a starter for the Huskies. But, the freshman from Brooklyn is hardly a finished product.

In Calhoun’s first game for the Huskies he had an open 22 foot 3-pointer and let it fly. Head coach Kevin Ollie jumped off the bench and yelled at his freshman for the shot.

Calhoun said after the game that he can make that shot, that’s why he took it.
That was November, in February Calhoun’s tune has changed. Sure, he can make an open 22-footer, but is that the best shot for the team?

That’s where Calhoun’s biggest improvement has come.

“I think for him, when he shoots bad it is types of shots he takes,” Hobb said after a mid-January practice. “When he gets good shots, he is a very consistent shooter. But, the thing is to get him to take the right shots. Coach (Ollie) always tells him to not take shots, select shots. Seeking out the right shots, when he does that he is very very consistent.”

Players don’t show up on campus at major Division I schools knowing how to go about practicing their craft.

Calhoun

Calhoun

High school basketball and AAU games are poor places to learn how to refine an offensive game and play with efficiency. Players don’t have much restriction on offense, aren’t asked to think much about what they are doing as games are largely freelance affairs with the top players shooting a high volume of shots. Points matter in those arenas, not how you acquired them.

Calhoun was no different and breaking out of that mold is something that Calhoun is conscious about. The isn’t Christ The King in New York City anymore.

“Coming from Christ The King, a lot of stuff I did scoring – I mean I can hit tough shots and everything – but at the college level there are certain shots you can get as the shot clock is going on. You might have a shot, but you make the extra pass and keep ball moving and get a better shot. I had to learn as we kept going on, I have got a better understanding of it.”

Calhoun has certainly got it as his freshman year is coming to a close. The 6-foot-4 New York City native has upped the scoring average to 11.5 points per game and has had double figures in each of the last four games with 21, 10, 15 and 16 points for the Huskies.

The last two games are a microcosm of where the talented guard has improved. In last weeks win against Syracuse Calhoun was hot from the 3-point line and was 4 of 5 from deep as he scored 15 points in a win over the Orange.
Three days later against Villanova was different. The Wildcats had watched film on his shooting prowess and knew that if his feet get set, Calhoun is deadly. So when the Villanova defense ran Calhoun off the 3-point line and dared him to drive, what did the freshman do?

He drove to the basket.

Calhoun led the Huskies with 16 points and was a less than stellar 3 of 8 from the field, but, was 9 of 9 from the foul line getting to the basket. He didn’t force up 3-point shots, he took what the defense gave him and showcased the versatility in his game that few thought he had. He’s shooting 41.5 percent from the floor and 33 percent from 3-point range this season.

Calhoun, who has that New York City confidence that all coaches crave, isn’t shy about telling other that he is a far more well-rounded player than many think. Calhoun is hitting the boards and playing defense and thinks of himself more as a scorer than just a shooter.

Ollie likes what he sees.

“I like the way he is maturing,” Ollie said. “The way he is taking what the coaching staff is telling him and taking it into games. He is grasping what we’re giving him. We told him about his three pointers — too many — he needs to show the ball and get to the rim. That’s what he is doing. I like improvement of Omar.”

This wasn’t over night. In mid-January Hobbs was trying to get Calhoun to look at the game and attack, not just jack up the first shot he comes across.  We want him to get better at the drive and get yourself open and get shots,” Hobbs said last month. “Use the screen better, and then get him to put it down (to dribble) one or two times to put it up.”

Calhoun has incorporated all of that into his game recently.

The freshman is just scratching the surface of his potential. The only sure bet with Calhoun is that more points are on the way.