Callahan assists men’s basketball in unconventional ways

Kyle Flannery

Go to any Whitman Men’s basketball game and you will rarely see senior Clay Callahan score, or even shoot for that matter. But what you will see him do are the intangibles, the little things that transcend box scores and the stat sheet. He won’t win you the game with a single shot; he will win you the game through selflessness, game management and by placing his teammates in quality scoring positions. He brings defensive intensity and tries to keep everyone firing on all cylinders.

For a point guard, it is uncommon not to shoot the ball, but when asked why he doesn’t shoot, Callahan simply laughs. He doesn’t believe that it’s ever been a big problem. It’s interesting to hear him even describe it as a “problem,” when in reality it may just be his greatest attribute.

“I like to set people up. I always got more out of that than shooting. We’ve got so many guys that can shoot this year. There are so many guys that are effective,” he said.

A player like Callahan is essential to any sports program, and his mindset is particularly instructive. The ability to recognize that there are more skilled players around him, players that can contribute in ways he can’t is one of the more important lessons for an athlete.By realizing this, by developing a niche within the game, Callahan is able to focus on his strengths and minimize situations of weakness.

For Callahan it’s always been more fulfilling to play like that, with a specific role in mind. His role simply doesn’t involve shooting all that often. It does, however, involve getting the ball into the hands of teammates in shooting opportunities that are just as good, if not better.

Though Callahan is fully capable and willing to shoot when it comes down to it, he knows his team, and he understands what everyone else is capable of. With so many other skilled players around him, shooting often is not necessary to him. Because of this ability, he is seen as a natural leader on the squad. His teammate, senior forward Matt Mounier explains why.

“He has a respect for everyone, which is really important in a leader. He’s really good at reading situations and knowing what we need, what’s best for everyone. That sets him apart,” said Mounier.

If he’s seen as a natural leader, it simply begs the question: Why isn’t he a captain? The answer is that the men’s basketball team does not believe in designating captains.

“We believe naming someone a captain limits other potential leaders –– natural leadership rises to the top. We have, really, five to six guys who are doing an extraordinary job of leading in their own way,” said Head Men’s Basketball Coach Eric Bridgeland.

And Clay Callahan is certainly one of them –– an important voice among many. When he believes he has the right things to say, he says them. The same goes for any person on the team, no matter their regular contribution. Whether they’re getting significant minutes or sitting injured on the bench, they can still play an important role.

Unfortunately, Callahan suffered a leg injury this past weekend which may threaten to sideline him for the first time in his Whitman basketball career. He had x-rays done on Monday, and the team was left to hope it was minor. Callahan himself thought it was simply a bad ankle sprain and that he’d be back soon.

“It feels equitable to a sprain I had on my left ankle last year, and that one I sprained in a Tuesday game and was able to play that Friday,” he said.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis was a small fracture in his leg. It appears unlikely that Callahan will be able to return for the remainder of the season, but he will certainly still be there to lead from the sideline. With the end of a successful season fast approaching, the team is hoping to make a push for conference championships, and they think they have the players to do it. In the past, opposing teams have been able to key in defensively on a few players, but this year, with so many guys able to score off the dribble as well as shoot, opponents often face more than they can handle.