Aaron Calixte had to wait late into the proverbial night — nearly the 25th hour of the late signing period– before he finally found a Division I home at the University of Maine. He didn’t wait long to start making an impact on his new team.
Calixte took his long wait personally, and wasted little time in grabbing the Black Bears starting point guard position not long after he set foot on campus. Now, he’s on a mission to prove a point to every school that took a pass on him.
“I play with an edge every single game. I feel like a lot of schools passed on me, so I’m going out there and playing my hardest,” said Calixte after the Black Bears’ 85-74 loss to Boston College. On Thursday night, Calixte, a stocky-strong point guard at a generously listed 5’11” found himself defended by 6-foot-4-inch stud BC junior Olivier Hanlan for large stretches. In 36 Minutes against an ACC squad, Calixte contributed five points, four rebounds and four assists, solid numbers for a frosh but hardly to make one take pause, let alone do a double take, when thumbing through the stat sheet.
But it was what didn’t show up in the box score that stood out.
Against Hanlan, as well as heavy of seasoned, experienced, and far larger guards, Calixte wasn’t flashy or fancy, but he was calm, cool and collected — appearing unflappable, while attacking the paint off the dribble, pushing the ball in transition, and collapsing the defense and making things happen almost every time down the floor. It was a mentality that Calixte credited his head coach 100-percent for.
“Coach, from Day 1, believed in me; he gave me the confidence and put the ball in my hand and I’m just trying to take advantage of that,” said Calixte. “My coach has given me the confidence to shoot the ball when I’m open, be aggressive, make big plays. When your coach does that, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to play.”
A native of Stoughton, Massachusetts, a town with a strong social conscience that sits in the shadows of gritty Brockton, Calixte spent the first three years of his career starting at point guard for Stoughton High in the small Hockamock League, a conference comprised of medium-sized suburban public schools in southern Massachusetts. At Stoughton, Calixte led his team to the Massachusetts State Tournament all three years, including a trip to the Boston Garden as a junior. Following his time at Stoughton High, Calixte transferred to Lee Academy, an independent Prep School in Maine, where he flourished while suiting up alongside and against a heavy of Division I talent.
In the Black Bears first nine games, Calixte has made seven starts, and is averaging 7.4 points, 3.7 assists and 1.4 rebounds per game while handling the bulk of Maine’s ball-handling duties. Still, according to both Calixte and his coach, while his game took a leap going from a smaller public school to big time competition at the prep school level, being thrown face first in to the fire of Division I college basketball has been an adjustment.
“It’s a big difference from high school, to Lee Academy, to Maine. The Hocomock is a really strong league, but you don’t see against Division I talent everyday. Lee Academy you play against the best. In college, it’s different, totally different: you can’t do the same things that you did in high school no matter where you played,” said Calixte.
“We’re putting him out there and throwing him to the wolves so he’s going to learn to fight,” said Walsh of his young point guard’s trial by fire introduction to college basketball.
According to Walsh, Calixte has made quick believers out of his coaches and teammates, but the young playmaker still hasn’t quite won over his harshest critic: himself.
“He’s still not entirely comfortable taking control and I think that takes time. We keep talking to him about it and his teammates are comfortable with him leading out there, but it’s still all brand new to him,” said Walsh.
Calixte’s best game of his young career came, not coincidentally, in Maine’s first –and thus far only — win of the season, a thrilling 82-81 overtime victory over visiting Wagner in which Calixte just missed a double-double, scoring 10 points while dishing out nine assists.
But when asked of his biggest goals both for the team and himself, Calixte didn’t talk about putting up big numbers, or playing professional basketball after all is said and done.
“My biggest goal is to win a championship,” he said, adding “individually, it’s to just be the best teammate that I can.”
According to Walsh, if the Black Bears are going to reach the NCAA Tournament in the near future, which has eluded the program for its more than 100 year history, Calixte will play a prominent role.
“We’re really happy with him and I think he’s going to be a huge part of [the team’s future],” said Walsh.