With an abundance of youth, freshmen forced to play key role

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

SDSU’s men are growing up in a hurry-at least the basketball players are.

While battling injuries and inexperience, the Jacks have started 10 different players, including as many as four freshmen in a single game. With only two seniors on the team, guards Jose Frias and Andy Kleinjan, the young players have been forced to play more minutes than freshmen would normally play.

“Guys like Kai (Williams) and Garret (Callahan) and Blake (Yackley) are to the point now at this part of the season, Thomas (Bassett), where the kind of game experience they are getting they normally wouldn’t have until about the end of their sophomore year, in terms of the number of minutes they’re playing,” said Head Coach Scott Nagy.

Callahan, a true freshman point guard, said he no longer feels like a freshman.

“I just feel like a normal player that has been in the system. Coaches expect me to produce and make plays just as well as any other freshmen. They don’t see us as freshmen anymore and they shouldn’t.”

Williams, a freshman forward, agrees.

“Since we’ve played so much, we can’t really be considered freshmen anymore,” he said. “Not many people can come in as a freshman and play the minutes that some of our freshmen have played. Since we’ve been through a lot, played in some close games, played in some games where we’ve lost by a lot, we’ve definitely experienced a lot.”

Williams is second on the team in minutes per game and second on the team in points per game, while he leads the team in rebounds and blocked shots.

Williams said he has a better rhythm with the team now than he did earlier in the season.

“I feel a lot more comfortable,” He said. “When I first came in, I was a little unsure of what was expected of me. I have definitely settled down. I know what I need to do and what my teammates expect of me.”

Callahan has impacted the team since his return. He is third on the team in minutes played, including a 40-minute performance versus Central Florida. He is also third on the team in points per game and second in assists per game.

Callahan missed the first four games of the season due to a hand injury he suffered before the beginning of the season.

“It was really frustrating because I was playing really well. I was starting to get the hang of it. You could see everything was kind of clicking for me and then that happened. I had to start over,” he said.

Callahan said returning from the injury was a difficult process.

“It was hard for me to adjust right away with game speed … I kind of struggled there for a little while,” he said.

Callahan said “just getting back to where I feel comfortable just playing” has been the biggest difference from when he first returned until now.

“At first, I was always worried about getting it hit. I felt like if I screwed up, I was coming out. Now I’m just playing the game. If I screw up, I screw up. I’m just trying to play through that type of stuff,” he said. “I think I’m pretty much where I was at, or maybe even a little beyond that.”

His comeback had other difficulties.

“You gotta be in shape. That was probably the hardest part, just getting back in shape. You gotta handle the ball, and handling the ball is dribbling. You gotta use your hands for that. I didn’t have 100% confidence when I came back,” he said.

He said he put in extra time on his own, working on two-ball dribbling and “just getting in there (the gym), bouncing the ball whatever way.”

As Callahan plays more, his confidence level within the offense grows.

“I just feel comfortable in the offense knowing where to score and when to score. I’m really starting to learn when to score and when not to. When to take the shot and when not to,” he said.

His teammates have noticed a difference since Callahan returned.

“Garrett is a good point guard. He takes care of the ball and makes right decisions. He’s a good player so it definitely helps out having another player who can score in the lineup,” said Williams.

Led by Williams and Callahan, the freshmen class looks to build the program up and turn it into a quality program.

“It is only going to get better. We’re going to get stronger. We’re going to get faster. We’re going to learn how to play with each other more and better,” said Callahan.

“I think about that (turning the program around) a lot. We are young. (Matt) Cadwell is a sophomore. He’ll be leading us this year and the next two years after that … We’re going to be young, but with us being young, it makes us experience things a lot quicker … It will be tough for us now but beneficial for us in the long run,” said Williams.