UConn Basketball: Why Omar Calhoun Is the Huskies' True MVP
USA TODAY Sports
If you asked most people who the MVP of the UConn men's basketball team is at this point in the season, they'd likely answer either Shabazz Napier or Ryan Boatright.
And why not?
The Huskies' backcourt combo combines for an average of nearly 33 points a game and is considered among the best pair of guards in the nation.
You could make an easy case for either guy being the team's MVP at this point in the season, and a few could make the argument convincingly.
But while both Napier and Boatright are having great seasons, they are simply meeting expectations.
Omar Calhoun, the Huskies' prized freshman recruit last season, on the other hand, has stepped in and flourished in Kevin Ollie's system and shown he is not just the team's MVP this season but could be its leader in the years to come.
Why Calhoun? Simply put, this is a kid who showed both his character and commitment to the program when he followed through on his pledge to enroll.
He decided to enroll at UConn over the summer before the upheaval that shook the team and the program to its foundations.
The decision came after meeting with then-head coach Jim Calhoun (no relation), who would leave the school not long after, largely as a result of academic problems, which resulted in the Huskies being banned from the postseason this season.
Many recruits decided to seek safer shores after the NCAA dropped the hammer, but Omar Calhoun held fast to his commitment and has become a key cog in the team's overachieving thus far this season.
Averaging 11.1 points per game, third behind Napier and Boatright, he has seen his playing time increase significantly from earlier in the season. This is a reflection of his play and the faith the coaching staff has placed in him.
As a freshman, he has hit double-digits in points in 12 of 21 games this season and made crucial contributions in recent wins over Providence and South Florida, in which he was five-of-six from the free-throw line in the narrow victory.
His confidence has grown, and he's more willing to take his own shot. Throughout his high school career, at Christ the King in Queens, N.Y., Calhoun was known as a player who liked to get others involved before settling on a shot.
With this year's Huskies less reliant on their inside game than in years past, this has freed up the guards to be more creative and take more opportunities.
It's a system that is conducive to strong, decisive guard play, and Calhoun has been a crucial piece of that game plan.
He's also had a propensity to come up big in crucial spots and to have big games when his fellow backcourt mates have fallen off.
In their most recent game, the Huskies dropped a narrow 71-65 decision against rival St. John's in Madison Square Garden. Neither Napier nor Boatright had a particularly impressive game, combining for fewer points than the 21 Calhoun dropped on the Johnnies.
It was his second 20-plus-point game of the season, and more impressively, both have come when the opposition level has risen. He also came up big in another losing effort earlier in the season, with 20 points against then-No. 1 Louisville.
And while the individual numbers themselves don't necessarily scream MVP, especially given his two better-known and talented teammates, you have to look at the totality of the situation.
Omar Calhoun is the future of UConn basketball. He's having a tremendous freshman season, and while he isn't as well-known as his backcourt mates, he will be soon.
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