Let’s see if the Sooners have found their point guard

Image result for aaron calixte maine

Over the weekend, Jon Rothstein reported that Lon Kruger did an in-home visit with Maine’s Aaron Calixte, a grad transfer point guard.

The need for a point guard for next year’s team became apparent with the completely unsurprising news that Trae Young would be leaving the team for the NBA which will create a gaping chasm at the point guard position for the Sooners. Calixte averaged 16.9 points per game for the Black Bears while shooting 39% from 3. That’s the good part. The not-so-good part is that he had more turnovers than assists — not ideal when the team needs a dependable point guard who can get the ball to the right scorers. Add to that the fact that he was playing in the America East Conference — ranked 24th by KenPom (the Big 12 was #1) — and it’s reasonable to wonder if Calixte can handle the rigors of Big 12 competition as a front-line point guard.

The fact that Calixte averaged more turnovers than assists is troubling, but it could be that his teammates simply weren’t good enough to consistently put the ball in the basket after he fed them or that, since he was obviously the best player on the team, he was double-teamed and defended in ways in which he wouldn’t be defended in the Big 12 since he’d be surrounded by better teammates. It’s difficult for us, then, to predict how well his abilities would translate to the Big 12. Here’s a video showing some of what he can do but it’s difficult to determine if he’s really a Big 12 type player from a 2 and a half minute video of all his best stuff.

The Black Bears did play Texas Tech in November and got rolled 83-44. It was 49-13 at halftime. Yuck! Needless to say, Calixte didn’t have a very good game, scoring 5 points on 1-5 shooting and finishing with 2 assists and 2 turnovers. Still, it’s just one game and it was the 2nd game of the season. Maybe it means nothing.

Fortunately, there is a player who can help provide a template maybe to see what kind of player Calixte might be in the Big 12. Following the 2016-2017 season, Maine point guard Wesley Myers transferred to South Carolina and played this past season as a grad transfer for the Gamecocks. Now, the Gamecocks weren’t nearly as good in 2017-2018 as they were the year in which they went to the Final 4 as their best two players were gone, but at least we’ve got a player playing the same position and moving to a similar, power-5 conference to complete his eligibility.

The numbers below show us Myers in 2017 at Maine, Myers in 2018 at South Carolina, and Calixte in 2018 at Maine.

Player eFG% 3 pt % ARate TORate USG%
Myers, 2017 48.3 34.3 13.4 12.3 30.1
Calixte, 2018 55.3 38.6 22.9 21.2 26.4
Myers, 2018 45.1 39.0 16.9 15.3 20.6

So what can we gain from this that might be informative? Myers was not quite as good on the offensive end with the Gamecocks this season as he was last season with Maine but the drop-off wasn’t substantial. His 3 point percentage and assist rate improved even as his turnover rate unsurprisingly increased. That, of course, is the biggest concern with Calixte as his turnover percentage is already quite high. In looking at Myers’ stats, the decrease in his eFG% comes largely because of a 10% decrease in his 2 point FG%. It’s also notable that his usage rate decreased by about 10% as well. I think it’s fair to say that Calixte’s usage rate would drop by several points for the Sooners since only 5 Big 12 players had usage rates as high as Calixte did for the Black Bears this season.

If we compare the other numbers, however, I think it’s likely that there’s no reason to expect a huge decline in Calixte’s 3 point % if he were to play in the Big 12. Obviously, his teammates at OU will be better than those at Maine so his assist rate should still be relatively high. The obvious concern is those turnover numbers. Would he be able to manage that better because one goal for the Sooners entering the 2018-2019 season should be to reduce the team’s turnovers. It’s great to have a point guard who can knock down shots and distribute the ball to open shooters but he also has to be able to withstand the pressure that Texas Tech, West Virginia, Kansas, and all the others will apply.

Entering this exercise I wasn’t sure what I was going to find. I thought there was a decent chance that the numbers that Calixte put up at Maine just wouldn’t translate well to the Big 12 since the competition is so much better. Let’s face it…he’d be going from a 1-bid league to a league where 70% of the teams made the NCAA tournament. It’s a battle every night. Now that I’ve seen the numbers and seen how similarly Myers played in the SEC this season, it gives me confidence that Calixte can be a solid offensive force for the Sooners next year if that’s the direction that Coach Kruger and the other coaches decide to go in. I know the team is looking at other point guard options as well — and Calixte is probably hearing from other schools and coaches as well — but I feel pretty good now that he’s a viable option to run the point in the Big 12 next season.

Thanks for reading.

 

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