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Men's Basketball Roundtable: What Role Will Omar Calhoun Play for UConn?

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Omar Calhoun had an incredible season as a freshman at UConn. Now a senior, can the Brooklyn native get back to that level and play a big role for the Huskies?

Can Omar Calhoun get back to the level of play he showed off his freshman year?
Can Omar Calhoun get back to the level of play he showed off his freshman year?
Steve Quick/The UConn Blog

Omar Calhoun was one of the bright spots of a memorable 2012-13 season for UConn. Calhoun averaged 11 points and nearly four rebounds, earning him Big East Conference Rookie of the Year honors.

Calhoun was a critical piece of the squad that year, a year marked by the postseason ban. His clutch play helped UConn pick up a win in the final showdown against Syracuse. Then there was the night he forced overtime against No. 7 Georgetown with a three right before time expired.

His numbers dipped significantly his sophomore season, though they improved slightly last season.

As part of our preview of the 2015-16 season, the staff of The UConn Blog looks at Calhoun's senior season. What kind of role will the Brooklyn native have with the Huskies this season, and can he get back to the level of play he demonstrated as a freshman?

Tim Fontenault: The preseason left a lot unanswered with Omar Calhoun. He shot well against Tampa, but then he missed every shot he took against New Haven (though I liked every shot and want him to keep shooting). His role will depend on which Omar shows up: freshman Omar or sophomore/junior Omar. If he shows up, he gives UConn depth behind Daniel Hamilton. If not, he won't get the minutes, simple as that.

I have always been high on Omar Calhoun, even when injuries affected his play, because I remember him at his best. His performance in the final Syracuse game and his 3-pointer against Georgetown are two of my fondest in-person memories of UConn basketball. I know he still has that in him, but these last two seasons may have done irreparable damage to his ability to be a game-changer.

The thing is, if they didn't, if Omar Calhoun comes out firing and is successful all year, the Huskies are in even better shape than we think they are right now. If #OmarComin becomes #OmarHere, and if the other concerns (rebounding, chemistry) work themselves out, UConn has everything it needs to cut the nets in Houston.

Tucker Warner: In an ideal world, Omar Calhoun's progression as a basketball player was never hindered by injuries, and he developed into a reliable, consistent starter for UConn. In the real world, injuries took their toll on Calhoun, and it's likely his on-court impact has suffered as a result of that. This year, UConn brings in a bit more depth around the perimeter, which will likely cut into Calhoun's playing time unless he made major improvements this offseason. Knowing how unlikely it is to improve so much in the short time between seasons (especially toward the end of a college basketball career), I don't expect much more from Calhoun this season.

To define his likely role with specifics: Omar Calhoun will likely occupy a modified three-and-D role for the Huskies this season, helping to space the floor on offense and providing better defense than any other backup around the perimeter. Calhoun will probably end his UConn career without ever being the great shooter many thought he would become, but he can be a quality option off the bench in terms of knocking down a few threes to keep opposing defenses honest. If he learns to get to the basket more effectively, and gets better at ball movement, Calhoun could definitely see his minutes increase, but if he starts the season in a shooting slump, he might be rotated out for Sam Cassell Jr. pretty quickly.

Ben Cantor: Omar Calhoun has had as much of an up and down career at UConn as anyone in the last five seasons. After a tremendous freshman year, Calhoun has yet to look remotely like the player that hit the buzzer-beating game-tying three against a top ten Georgetown team in 2013. He has battled a healthy mix of injuries and confidence over the last two seasons, but enters his senior year with a serious chip on his shoulder, looking to prove to Husky Nation once again why he is here.

UConn hasn't seen this balance of experience and depth since at least 2009 and Omar Calhoun epitomizes this. He has been a focal point for Kevin Ollie's offense, a cheerleader on the bench, and a national champion. He is likely to be UConn's second or third man off the bench and can impact the game with improved defense and rebounding, and a shooting ability that we know is under the layers of tumult from his past two seasons. If Calhoun can tap into this part of his offensive game, opposing teams better watch out.

Matt Gionfriddo: My expectations for Omar Calhoun are that while he may not fill up the stat sheet and may not even score in double digits often, he will still play an important role in the success of this season. After battling through two brutal hip surgery recoveries, there were rumors that Calhoun may transfer after the national championship season. He did not. Omar Calhoun is still wearing a UConn uniform despite seeing his minutes get practically cut in half since his freshman season.

When thinking and writing about Omar, it reminds me of an article by Aman about Max DeLorenzo, a redshirt senior running back on the football team. He too thought about transferring as he went through the darkest of dark days with UConn Football.  He too had his playing time reduced as talent came into the program, but like Calhoun, he stayed the course.  Like Calhoun, Delorenzo just wanted to see the program be successful even if it meant doing the little things.

Calhoun has battled through more adversity than most players on this roster which makes him a great leader by example for this team. He may not be the rah-rah type, but it is clear that he is a phenomenal teammate and puts UConn before himself. Omar is by no means the most talented player on the roster, but you know he will give 100 percent 100 percent of the time. Omar is going to be the one battling down in the trenches for rebounds even though he's 6-foot-5. Omar is going to be the one diving on the floor for loose balls. Omar is going to be the one to pick teammates up when things go wrong. Omar is going to be the one giving all he's got on defense, and if he can hit some threes then LET'S GO. I love this kid.

Kaveh Jam: The AAC is top heavy this year with talented teams that can deploy various weapons on any given night. One of the crucial roles that will help a contending team rise to the top of the conference will be outside shooting. For the Huskies, Omar Calhoun is a prime candidate to fill that role. Calhoun supplied ample shooting and scoring during his freshman year, when he started every game. He has weathered some bumps along the way and injuries have slowed him to some degree but you can make the argument he might be the best three-point shooter on this team. We've yet to see what Jalen Adams can do consistently from deep during a game. And even if Adams can knock down the three, it surely won't be his sole responsibility.

Calhoun's 6-foot-6-inch frame is right around the ideal size Ollie likes in his wing players. That should allow Calhoun to shoot over smaller guards and stretch the floor. If he can embrace that role this year, it would open up the interior considerably, allowing bigs like Amidah Brimah the space to cause damage.

Ben Zachs: For the first time since his freshman year, Omar is healthy and ready to go. Word from practices is that he has really worked hard to make an impact in his final season in Storrs (especially after two down years). While readiness and health are important, any contribution from Omar Calhoun as a welcomed addition to the team, but am not expecting much. With a number of extremely talented guards ahead of him, Omar is the fourth guard and will receive limited minutes. Omar has been a committed Husky when things were looking bleak and I'm rooting for him, but my expectations are tempered.

As UConn fans know, senior leadership and steady guard play are imperative to winning a championship. Optimistically, I hope to see Omar as a committed defender, late game ball handler against the press, and a clutch free throw shooter. If Omar can take ownership of that role and accept being a defensive stopper versus a star, he will add incredible value on this team. Omar becoming a Rashmel Jones or Lasan Kromah would be excellent and earn him minutes.

Dan Madigan: Anyone who knows me knows Omar Calhoun is one of favorite players, and that I have big expectations for him this season. That being said, I think Omar can make a huge impact off the bench this season, much like he did in his freshman season where he averaged 11.1 points per game and shot 32.1 percent from beyond the arc. While Jalen Adams seems to have solidified the sixth man spot on this team to start the season, Omar should and likely will be relied upon to be the first shooting guard off the bench. He has the skill set to hit threes, rebound and take guys off the dribble and should be able to use that to be a sparkplug for the offense off the bench. I could easily see Omar averaging over 10 points per game and shooting around 35-37 percent from three this season. He has always had the potential to be a big-time scorer at this level, and I think this is the year he takes the next step and finally shows growth from his freshman season. With how deep and balanced this team is, I wouldn't be surprised if Calhoun leads the team in scoring once or twice this year. #OmarComin