Over the last two seasons and the early part of 2015-16, every Omar Calhoun 3-pointer was met with a hint of optimism. Was that the shot Calhoun needed to find his rhythm again?
More often than not, that shot was a fleeting moment of joy for a sect of the UConn fanbase that has remained devoted to Calhoun through his struggles since starring as a rookie in the Big East in 2013. The rest of the Husky faithful had all but shunned the Brooklyn native.
UConn fans may have been down on Calhoun, but Calhoun—one of the most beloved players among his teammates—was never fazed.
"He's one of the guys who's had one of the toughest roles since I've been here at UConn," Rodney Purvis said. "I'm just happy to see he never put his head down, no matter what, even through the slumps and not making shots. He's always been one of the most positive guys on the team."
Any player can get hot—see Jamal Coombs-McDaniels' ridiculous three-game stretch in 2011—but Calhoun seems to be finding his groove again, following two outstanding performances against Ohio State and UMass Lowell.
Calhoun scored 14 points against both the Buckeyes and the River Hawks and put in solid defensive performances as UConn has recovered from a loss to Maryland with two straight victories.
The three games prior, Calhoun had not scored a single point. He had only taken four shots, all against Maryland. He was 7-for-25 from the field through eight games. All of his field goals were 3-pointers, and only four of his shot attempts were inside the arc.
Over the last two games, he is 8-for-8 from the field, perfect on five 3-point attempts and has made all seven of his free-throw attempts. He is also playing solid defense, to boot.
This time, that playful hashtag "#OmarComin" is serious.
In fact, Omar is already here.
In the last two games, Calhoun has played 49 minutes, after only playing 82 minutes in the first eight games combined. Calhoun played 20 minutes total in the Huskies' three losses against Maryland, Syracuse and Gonzaga. In 10 minutes against the Orange, he was 3-for-4 from 3-point range. That was his best offensive performance of the year before the last two games.
Kevin Ollie has said several times Calhoun's defense will keep him on the floor, and his solid defensive play seems to be breeding offense. He is not racking up steals or rebounds, but he is locking down opponents and making it difficult to beat him. It is hard to ignore his plus-44 rating over the last two games.
Before the last two games, Calhoun had never been perfect from the field at UConn, and he had gone 1-for-1 from the 3-point line three times, never better. Even in games when Calhoun had only attempted one 3-pointer, he missed, always.
"I haven't missed a shot the last two games, so obviously something's going in the right direction," Calhoun said. "Hopefully I stick on this path and keep getting better."
Ollie is going to be hard pressed to cut Calhoun's minutes if he keeps playing like this, which is only going to allow Calhoun to see his numbers improve even more. He will not stay this hot from the perimeter, but he has been hitting his 3-pointers at a much more consistent rate this season. For someone whose biggest moments at UConn came on 3-pointers, Calhoun was a career 30.4 percent 3-point shooter entering the season. He is shooting at a rate of 46.2 percent this season.
Calhoun's numbers are starting to trend upward with these recent performances, and if he keeps it up, he could be looking at career numbers. His 49 percent effective field goal rate as a freshman was his best output for the Huskies, but he is currently shooting at a rate of 63.6 percent. Called upon to play more defense, his 11.5 percent defensive rebound percentage is also a career rate.
Hot or not, Calhoun commands respect in the UConn locker room. His teammates love him. The younger guys look up to him. When he gets going, the rest of the team feeds off it.
"When he was playing bad, his personality wasn't affected or anything," Purvis said. "He's just always the great Omar Calhoun. I'm really happy to see things turning around for him....When we see Omar hit a shot, different things like that, that really gets our juices going."