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Omar Calhoun shows signs of life in UConn's rout of CCSU

POSTED December 28, 2014
BY Patrick Tiscia
Twitter: @PatrickTiscia

HARTFORD – On the surface, an 11-point effort against an overmatched opponent may not seem like much, especially for a player with the skill level of Omar Calhoun.

But for the UConn junior, Calhoun’s 11 points in an 81-48 victory over Central Connecticut State at the XL Center on Sunday gave him a chance to breathe after an extremely frustrating 2014, a year filled with injuries and questions.

“My timing definitely got better today,” a relieved Calhoun said after the win. “I feel like I kind of got my groove back. It’s been tough going through the injuries, so it was good to have something go positive and now I can look forward and keep going.”

The injury bug began in the summer of 2013 when Calhoun underwent impingement surgeries on each of his hips. He started off last season strong, scoring in double figures in each of the first three games, but the lingering hip issues became too much of a hindrance, and Calhoun finished the year without a single point in his final 11 games.

And, most frustrating of all for him, he did not see a minute of action in the Final Four as the Huskies went on to win the national championship.

Putting that aside, plus the rumors of a potential transfer, Calhoun was ready for a bounce back season. However, he suffered a setback in the preseason when he sprained his MCL, forcing him to miss the first seven games of the season.

By then, it would’ve been easy to throw in the towel. Calhoun never considered that an option.

“It’s definitely been tough, but I am a strong individual,” said Calhoun, who averaged 11.1 points per game and hit 43 three-pointers as a freshman. “I talk to coach (Kevin Ollie) all the time, and he keeps saying to work through it and he’s got my back.

“Every time I felt like I was heading in the right direction, something happened to hold me back,” he continued. “I’ve just tried to stay positive and motivated to get stronger. Hopefully, I can come back better than I was (as a freshman).”

On Sunday, Calhoun’s day started off with a steal and he drove to the basket strong for a lay-up while getting fouled. He added a couple of drives in the paint, along with a three-pointer from the corner. He only finished 1-of-5 from three, but was encouraged, though, by the quality of looks.

"I just need to get back to the gym and clean it up a little bit," he said. "I'll be fine with (the three-point shot)."

Calhoun's last double-digit effort came one year ago to the day against Eastern Washington. With conference play slated to begin on Wednesday, any contribution from him will be a welcomed one by the Huskies.

“I feel like I can make us better,” Calhoun said. “I’m a scorer and can help stretch the defense out. That will help guys like (Ryan Boatright) and Rodney (Purvis) get into the lanes, and give them room to operate. It’s something that will help the team.”

“I want him, (Sam Cassell Jr. and Terrence Samuel) to really understand it's all about EGBs - I mean energy generating behaviors,” added Ollie. “Omar got in, got a deflection, a rebound and a lay-up. Now, I'm going to reward him with more minutes."

Boatright finished with 18 points and five assists on Sunday and sees the potential boost Calhoun can give.

“It’s real big,” he noted.  “Any time you can get another teammate out there hitting shots, it will help me and help the team. Having Omar back, and seeing him healthy again, is a good feeling.”

Calhoun estimates he is currently “85 percent health-wise.” While not 100 percent, it’s better than he was last season and at the start of this one. And the Huskies, off to a slightly disappointing 6-4 start, will certainly take it.

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