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Film Review: Newest UConn transfer Joey Calcaterra brings shooting depth to Huskies’ bench

Calcaterra was asked to do a lot during his time at San Diego and could excel in a smaller, more defined role with the Huskies.

NCAA Basketball: San Diego at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

UConn men’s basketball recently picked up its most recent commitment in the form of Joey Calcaterra, a graduate transfer from San Diego. Calcaterra, who started for three seasons including a COVID-shortened junior year, has some known qualities, but the expansion of the transfer portal has made it clear that it can be hard to predict a player’s performance from statistics alone when he’s making such a large jump in competition as the West Coast Conference to the Big East.

So rather than rely on some numbers that only paint half a picture, I’ve taken a dive into the video. Or rather, what video exists of him. As you might expect, video for the Toreros isn’t as prevalent on YouTube as UConn’s transfers from the ACC and American. Nonetheless, the video we could see was illuminating, and does provide enough for us to have a solid scouting report of the 6-foot-3 guard.

For some statistical context, last season Calcaterra averaged 8.5 points per game on 41.6 percent shooting from two and 34.7 percent from three last season, with 39 assists and 50 turnovers, although his 12-game junior year showed better numbers (13.3 points, 44.6/37.7 shooting, 1.8 assists). His free-throw shooting has been consistent throughout his career, with a lifetime mark of 82.9 percent.

Advanced stats suggest he took a step back from the truncated season, with a Box Plus-Minus of -2.4 last season compared to 1.5 his junior year. If this is your sort of thing, his Player Efficiency Rating was 9.9 last year, which is well below average, with a True Shooting percentage of 49.3, and a usage percentage of 20.1, which was fifth on his team.

One bit of good news we can start with is that these numbers almost certainly will improve at UConn. The role he’ll be in with the Huskies will be vastly different from the one he played at San Diego. He won’t be a starter, and even off the bench he’ll be sharing the ball more often than last season. In other words, his numbers last year were probably worse than his true ability within the role he’ll play at a Big East level.

That’s in large part because the Toreros’ offense last season was very bad, and provided him with no help. Their offensive efficiency ranked 298th out of 358 Division I teams, and their assists per field goal ratio was 355th—fourth from last in the nation. Calcaterra isn’t best suited for a role where he’s consistently creating his own scoring opportunities, so the lack of ball movement definitely depressed his scoring. Watching the tape brought me to the same conclusion: his shot selection wasn’t great, but that seemed to be a function of the environment he played in, which simply was not conducive to good shots.

More good news is that his shot mechanics look good; the motion is consistent even in trouble. Combine that with a high free throw percentage, and I’m led to believe the shot is legitimate. In other words, he’s a good shooter. How often he’ll be able to get his shot off cleanly at this level is another question, but when it’s clean, it’ll go in fairly often.

That brings us to that other question. Shooting may be Calcaterra’s only transferrable skill to the Big East quality of play. His handle is good enough to not get the ball stolen from him, but it’s hard to see him creating for himself whatsoever, and nothing from last year’s video showed me that he’d be a major playmaker off the dribble. When he does get into space with the ball in his hands, he’s not a bad passer, but with a below-average handle that prevents him from getting to his desired area, he’s going to have to shift into a different offensive role. Think of him as an off-ball guard—he’s there to shoot from the outside and not make difficult passes or set up the play.

The video was clear that Calcaterra is a willing defender also, and he’s putting forth good effort on that end. Whether that translates into production is less clear. He can definitely keep slower guards in front of him on the perimeter, but struggles more against superior athletes in both speed and strength when the effort alone won’t close the gap in athleticism. In other words, his defensive ability was good enough to handle most WCC opponents, but likely won’t work quite as well against power conference teams.

As such, I think we’ll see Calcaterra be in a non-featured bench role with the Huskies but still be called upon in most games. There are going to be times when Dan Hurley will want a shooting-oriented lineup on the floor, and Calcaterra fits into that mold. That should be seen as a positive, as you can never have enough outside shooting, and the Huskies were not deep in that area last season. With three other guards already transferring in, however, Calcaterra’s most likely going to be sixth on the backcourt depth chart—and if all goes well, that role should put him in the best position to maximize his effectiveness on the floor.