It hasn’t been an easy journey for University of Maine freshman point guard Aaron Calixte. Passed up by bigger conference schools including Maryland, UMass and Temple because of his 5’11 height, Calixte’s journey has led him 240 miles north from his home city of Boston to play for first year Maine head coach Bob Walsh.
With 16:27 remaining in the first half of the Black Bears contest with Boston College earlier this season, Calixte hit a three from the right side of the Conte Forum court to pull Maine within three points of Boston College. The crowd, filled with family, friends, old coaches and teachers, erupted as they witnessed a milestone, Calixte’s first collegiate points in his home city.
“It felt really good,” Calixte said. “It felt good to see some of my old teammates, my family members. We were hoping to come out with a win but we came short of that.”
Unfortunately for the Black Bears, they have been on the losing end of eight of the team’s first nine games this season. Despite this, Calixte continues to play with a chip on his shoulder every day, hoping to prove those schools who passed up on him wrong, and lead his team to their first ever American East championship.
“That’s why I have to come with an edge every single game,” Calixte said. “A lot of schools passed up on me so I’m just trying to go out every day and play my hardest.”
The Stoughton, Massachusetts native has excelled in doing just that early on in his collegiate career. Coming into Thursday’s game averaging 7.8 points and almost four assists a night, Calixte has stepped in and made an immediate impact on a young Maine team, consisting of only one senior and four juniors.
“My coach from day one believed in me,” Calixte said. “He gave me the confidence, put the ball in my hand and I’m just trying to take advantage of that.”
“My coaches have given me the confidence to shoot the ball when I’m open, make big plays and be aggressive,” Calixte added. “When your coach does that there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to score.”
Calixte, who immediately shined as a freshman at Stoughton High School, led his team to the state semifinals in 2012 averaging 19 points and six assists in his junior season. He also became the first junior in school history to join the 1,000 point club, a feat he accomplished in what turned out to be his last career regular season home game for the Black Knights.
With offers from schools such as Towson and Quinnipiac rolling in, Calixte decided to forgo his senior year at Stoughton, a year in which he almost certainly would have school’s mark for points in a career. He instead decided to attend Lee Academy in Maine, in hopes of even further improving his skills and continue to have scholarships coming his way.
Over his two years at Lee Academy with offers from Central Connecticut State, Siena, Quinnipiac, Towson, Albany, Robert Morris, New Hampshire, Iona and ultimately Maine in his pocket, Calixte decided to stay in The Pine Tree State and help rebuild a Maine team who finished 6-23 the previous season.
“It’s a big different from high school, to Lee Academy, to Maine,” Calixte said. “From high school, the Hockomock’s a real strong league but you don’t see division one talent every single day. Lee Academy you play against the best every single day.”
“In college it’s different, it’s totally different,” Calixte added. “You can’t do the things that you do in high school, period, no matter where you play. I’m just trying to transition to be a knock down shooter, making shots when I’m open and just being efficient and making plays for my teammates.”
In his nine games in a Maine uniform, Calixte already has three games having scored 10 or more points, including a 10 point, 9 assist night in the team’s lone win against Wagner.
“It felt really good,” Calixte said. “I wasn’t playing too well the previous game before that, I had a couple more turnover than assists. My coach still believed in me, starting me and all that. It gave me the confidence that I can do what I used to do, just handle the ball, create for my teammates, and score the basketball.”
“My biggest goal as a team is to win [the] America East Championship,” Calixte said. “Individually, just being the best teammate I can.”
Calixte, who has a long collegiate career still in front of him, is not worried about what is potentially waiting for him down the road. Instead, it is all about the now. And with many accomplishments and feats still in front of him (although he humbly would never admit it), Calixte’s work ethic and determination puts him in a spot to not only prove the schools who passed up on him wrong, but have a lengthy basketball career even after his day’s at Maine are long gone.