Jan. 21, 2007
By Brian W. Ferrie `98
Growing up in the central Florida sun, Pat Calathes probably never imagined playing college basketball for a school in Philadelphia called Saint Joseph's. But after developing into a highly regarded prospect during his years at Lake Howell High School in suburban Orlando, that's exactly the path Calathes' life took.
In fact, Florida has become a fertile, if unexpected, recruiting ground in recent years for St. Joe's, which has traditionally drawn its players from the Mid-Atlantic region. In addition to junior Calathes, junior Rob Ferguson hails from the Sunshine State (Fort Myers) and 2006 grad Chet Stachitas played his high school ball in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.
Calathes began high school as a 5-11 point guard before experiencing a tremendous growth spurt to reach 6-10 by his senior year. His game soared along with his height. Having grown up with a point guard's mentality, he maintained great ballhandling ability and gradually became able to dominate games with his height, passing, dribbling and shooting.
As a junior, he helped Lake Howell reach the Florida Class 5A Final Four, averaging 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. Calathes was first contacted by the Hawks following that season, during the spring of 2003, when former assistant coach Matt Brady gave him a call. At the time, the versatile forward had heard of Saint Joseph's star Jameer Nelson but knew little else about the school.
During the recruiting process, Calathes received more than 30 scholarship offers. Among the colleges interested were Virginia Tech and many A-10 schools, including George Washington and Xavier. But Calathes chose the Hawks for a couple reasons.
"Coach Martelli came down to meet my family and they all really liked him," Calathes related. "Then I made my official visit and I really liked the guys on the team and the school. I ended up canceling my other visits because I knew this was where I wanted to go."
Calathes gave an oral commitment to the Hawks in September 2003. If SJU fans were intrigued by the potential of the multi-talented Floridian when he committed, they became downright thrilled about his impending arrival after what he accomplished during his senior season of 2003-04.
Averaging 20.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists, Calathes teamed with twin brother John and younger brother Nick to lead Lake Howell to a 28-5 record and the runner-up spot in the Florida 5A Tournament. Individually, he was named the Seminole County Athletic Conference Player of the Year and earned All-Central Florida First-Team recognition.
In September 2004, Calathes set foot on Hawk Hill for the first time as a Saint Joseph's student. But in moving to the Northeast, it turned out he would need to adjust to more than just colder winters. Calathes had some difficulty finding his place in the Division I game and did not make a significant impact as a freshman. Although he appeared in 28 games, he averaged just 8.3 minutes, along with 1.9 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists while shooting only 35.5 percent from the field.
"Coming in it was real tough," he said in retrospect. "But I think my problems were mostly mental."
His sophomore season (2005-06) did not start out much better, but something clicked for Calathes down the stretch. In the final seven games, he averaged 10.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists, while shooting 48.2 percent from the field. His contributions helped the Hawks compile a 19-14 record and advance to the 2nd round of the National Invitation Tournament. Overall, his numbers for the season included 33 games and two starts, along with 17.0 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.8 apg and a 38.2 field goal percentage.
SJU fans, teammates and coaches were greatly encouraged by Calathes' play and counted on him to be a major contributor to the team in the 2006-07 season. He certainly hasn't disappointed. As of Jan. 16, the Hawks carried a 10-6 overall record, including a 3-1 mark in the Atlantic 10, with Calathes playing a big part in it.
His statistics are up across the board, having started all 16 games and averaging 27.9 minutes, while ranking second on the team in scoring (12.4), rebounding (6.4) and assists (3.2). He has also shot an impressive 46.8 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from three-point range.
"I'm progressing a lot better this year," he said. "Coach [Mark] Bass has really helped me both mentally and physically, giving me different stuff to work on. I came in this year wanting to do even better than I did at the end of last season, whatever I could to help the team win. I'm definitely happy with my overall production. My shooting percentage has improved a lot, and the credit for that goes to Coach Bass."
Calathes also recognized the need for further improvement in his game.
"I want to cut down on my turnovers," he said of his team-leading total of 3.0 per game. "I haven't had many the past few games, but early on in the season I was playing too fast and just had some dumb turnovers here and there."
The junior likes the development he has seen in the team, which is very youthful with four freshmen guards in the regular rotation along with Calathes, Ferguson, sophomore center Ahmad Nivins and junior forward Arvydas Lidzius. The Hawks put together a four-game winning streak before a disappointing, 86-81 home loss against Rhode Island on Jan. 13.
"We're really starting to jell as a team," he said. "We know each other's games now and are in sync. The freshmen are doing real well and they're getting better."
His hope for this year's squad is to win the A-10 Tournament in Atlantic City and its automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament.
"That would be great," he said. "It's basically my goal as a college player and I think it's definitely realistic for us."
Calathes also believes the Hawks' top competition in winning the conference crown will be today's opponent, the Xavier Musketeers.
"They're a well-rounded team," he explained. "There's not one guy who will kill you but more like five guys who can each put up 20 points."
Of course, if Calathes and his teammates keep developing as they have so far this year, the Hawks have a solid chance to realize his goal for them. The city of Philadelphia is certainly rooting for another NCAA appearance by Saint Joseph's after a couple of years in the NIT. And what are Calathes' thoughts about Philly now that he has been here for two-and-a-half years?
"It's nice, but I like the weather in Florida better," he said with a laugh.