After four years of trips to Vermont, Albany, and Hartford, former Stoughton star Aaron Calixte will be taking his game to a whole new level next season. The redshirt junior guard has decided to transfer from the University of Maine and will play his last season of college eligibility at the University of Oklahoma and take on the powerhouse programs of the Big 12.
With the graduation of standout Trae Young and the transfer of his backup Jordan Shepherd, the Sooners had an opening at point guard and Calixte is confident that his game is ready so that he can step in and perform for a perennial NCAA Tournament contender.
“We played against a couple of high majors throughout my college career so it will be just an adjustment more than anything,” Calixte said in a phone call from Maine, where he is completing his senior year of classes. As a senior, Calixte is a graduate transfer, which means he won’t have to sit out a year and will join the Sooners for a preseason camp in June.
“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “I think one of the main things for me during this transfer process was me getting to a school that plays on a high level to showcase what I can do. I think that can help my career going forward, so I’m more than excited.”
First off I would like to thank god for putting me in the position I am in today. Without him none of it would be possible. With that being said, I am excited to announce my commitment to Coach Lon Kruger & his staff at the University of Oklahoma!!??#BoomerSooner pic.twitter.com/gycheJOEVR
— Aaron Calixte (@A_Calixte23) April 17, 2018
Coming into this past winter, Calixte had considered the possibility of transferring to a larger program, but it wasn’t until after the Black Bears completed their season with a loss to Vermont in the America East Tournament and head coach Bob Walsh elected to opt out of his contract that he made the decision to move on.
He admitted that his coach’s decision to leave was an impetus for his own move and that if Coach Walsh had remained in charge, his transfer would have been a more difficult choice.
“If he had stayed, I would have had to have a conversation with him and my family to see if I was going to take that route,” Calixte explained. “With him not being here anymore, it just made the decision that much easier. I came in with that guy and it would’ve been weird if I was here and he wasn’t my coach.”
A positive relationship with the coaching staff was important to Calixte ending up in Orono and it has also played a part in his move to Norman. Just a couple days after the Sooners lost to URI in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Calixte said that OU coach Lon Kruger and his son, and assistant coach, Kevin were sitting in his living room talking about the opportunities in Oklahoma. That relationship grew over the next month, while Calixte weighed his options, and just two days after his official visit to Norman he declared his move on April 17.
The coaches played a role, but he also wanted to go someplace where he could take advantage of his senior year by being on the court. “I definitely didn’t want to go to a school where I was going to have to play spot minutes or anything like that,” he said. “This is my last year, so I definitely want to play a lot. That was definitely one of the main things that I considered going into the transfer process.”
When asked if the transfer process was any different than being recruited after high school, Calixte joked, “It was similar just because coaches were calling and telling you the same things trying to get you to come, but this time it was Tom Crean (Georgia), Coach Kruger, Fran McCaffery (Iowa), coaches like that calling me.”
As a junior at Stoughton, Calixte had built a strong case for himself as a potential DI college player but he lacked the national profile of his rival from King Philip, Jake Layman, who went on to play for Maryland and is now with the Portland Trailblazers. Calixte attended Lee Academy to build his recruiting profile and got his collegiate chance at Maine.
Congrats bro ?? making the Hockomock proud. Good luck! https://t.co/WWzg4idZLS
— Jake Layman (@JLayman10) April 17, 2018
He started 28 games as a freshman with the Black Bears and 26 games as a sophomore, scoring 10.8 points per game, which was third best on the team. Five games into his junior season, one in which Calixte had high expectations for what he could achieve, a foot injury in November cost him the year.
“Me missing that whole year, I felt like I was forgotten about,” Calixte reflected. “Preseason polls came out and there was a bunch of guys that made preseason teams that I thought I was much better than. It was just another chip on my shoulder.
“Me missing out on a whole year and not being able to do what I wanted to last year, there was a sense of urgency coming into this year. I kind of started off a little slow but I got better throughout the season.”
Calixte started all 32 games as a redshirt junior and was named America East Third Team All-Conference, averaging team-highs in points (16.9), assists (3.2), minutes (33.2), three-point percentage (38.0), and free throw percentage (89.0). Unfortunately, his personal success didn’t translate to wins, as the Black Bears finished 6-26.
While the team struggled, Calixte grew as a player, improving his decision-making, leadership, and his all-around game as a point guard. He credits Coach Walsh for making him a better player and a better person.
“The reason I went to Maine was that he told me I would have to work for my spot every year,” Calixte said. “If I wasn’t on my game, doing what I had to do, he would tell me right away.
“From the basketball lessons he taught me, they weren’t just about basketball they were life lessons – being able to be accountable, being able to take criticism, being a good teammate. Him being the coach he is, it just helped me a ton not only with basketball situations but life situations as well.”
Walsh recently tweeted his support for Calixte’s move to Oklahoma and in an article for the OU Daily, Walsh said, “I think he can be an elite scorer, he’s proven that. But if that’s not what the team needs on a given night and he needs to be a great defender, he needs to make his teammates better and get them open shots on the ball or off the ball, he can do that. I expect him to have a significant impact on whatever areas Coach Kruger needs him to impact to win.”
Stayed true to himself and his commitment when others around him did not. Stood by me for which I'll be forever grateful. Refused to take the easy way out. Made himself an elite player. Earned this opportunity and every ounce of success coming his way. Sooner fans will love him. https://t.co/hHUPpruSjw
— Bob Walsh (@CoachBobWalsh) April 17, 2018
Calixte went back to Stoughton the weekend before this interview, talking to friends and family and former teammates, and he was grateful for the support that he received from his hometown.
“It just kind of means more than just for me,” he remarked. “I’m doing a deed for the Town of Stoughton, my teammates here at Maine, you know, so it’s more than just an opportunity for me. I’m kind of a small town kid, I wasn’t nationally-known, so for me to have that chance to showcase myself against the best guys in the world is something I’m looking forward to. I want to play against the best and make a name for myself.”
It has been a whirlwind few years – from competing in the Hockomock League to the America East to now a chance to take on the likes of Kansas, Texas Tech, and other national powers and play on some of the biggest stages in college basketball.
Calixte reflected, “It’s been an extremely long ride from Stoughton to going to prep school for two years to being at Maine, especially the way things went at Maine with us not winning and me getting hurt…It’s been a roller coaster. It’s been a unique journey, but I’m happy with where I’m at.”
The roller coaster ride continues for Calixte in June when he joins up with the Sooners for the preseason and all of Stoughton, and the country, will be watching in November when he laces up for Oklahoma next winter.
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