Callahans leaving mark on Seneca basketball

PLANO – The 51st annual Plano Christmas Classic is the last at which a Callahan – at least one from this generation – will play for Seneca.

Like his older brothers Brennan, Landan, Garrett and Griffan before him, current Seneca senior Conlan Callahan is a key player for a Fighting Irish team competing in the tournament. This year’s Irish are 1-1 in the tournament, and will face Newark at 3:30 p.m. Saturday after a 61-43 loss Friday to Ottawa.

Following Thursday’s 69-51 win over Mendota in Seneca’s first game at the 2013 Classic, the Morris Daily Herald caught up with Conlan Callahan.

Q. You’ve been coming to Plano for, I’m guessing, about your whole life. What’s your favorite part of the tournament?

A. I like the atmosphere. The gym’s really nice; they have a really nice gym. I like playing with the team. When we get out there on the court, I feel like we can do anything, and we’re just out there to have fun and be aggressive and win the game. When I watched my brother, I really, really liked watching them play.

I don’t know. There’s something about this tournament. When you win, you feel great, because you’re playing against great competition every day. You don’t have any easy games. Coming here and getting a win, you wanna keep winning, like my brothers did. It was really great to see. I love coming here. It’s fun.

Q. Is there any first memory you have from this tournament? What’s the furthest-back thing you can remember?

A. My brother Landan was a senior, and they had to go up against a kid named [Victor] Menedez from Plano. They had to shut him down. I remember he was just this huge guy, and there was Landan, this little guy, and they just picked the ball from him. They ended up winning the game, and they lost to them at regionals, the regional championship. Winning that game, here, I remember that.

The next-closest thing to far back would be Griffan and Seth [Evans] against Putnam County. I remember sitting on the floor watching the whole game like, ‘Oh, they’re flopping.’ I was getting so mad. I wanted to go play and all that. I don’t know. There’s Garrett, too, with the 2005-06 team, and the next year and the year before that, with Brett Anderson and Luke [Anderson] and Marty [Hetelle] and Robert [Rexroade].

Just watching all those guys playing in the championship game and getting to the All-Tournament team and the MVP, and I’m just like, ‘Man. I want to do that so bad.’ And this is my last year. I’ve been coming here for four years now, and haven’t had the opportunity to better myself like we do now. We have bench guys around us. We just gotta take care of our chance and just do it like they did.

Q. What did you guys do against Mendota this time that you didn’t do the first time [in a 54-44 loss at Seneca’s Turkey Tournament]?

A. This time, we just really focused more on their key players and tried to take away two of their main go-tos, which is dribble-drive and rebounding. So we packed it in and didn’t really let them get to the paint as much as they did before and just took that away, tried to, and we really tried to keep them off the offensive glass, which really hurt us the first time, and we did an exceptional job. Our guys are pretty excited to play Ottawa tomorrow, or Forreston.

Q. Is this a good measuring stick for you guys? You saw Mendota at your first tournament. You lost then. Is what happened today an indication that you’ve progressed since then?

A. Yeah. I would say yeah, we’ve progressed. Our whole December, it was kinda weird. We’ve only played like four games. I mean, it was every Friday night. We had a whole week of practice, a whole week of practice then a game, a whole week of practice then a game. All that, it’s kind of hard keeping a flow instead of like a Tuesday-Friday where you’re always playing. We responded well.

Our team likes to have a lot of fun and keep things light, keep it under control. I think we’re working on a lot more and we’re staying a lot more focused than we started out when we played Mendota the first time.

Q. Have the new players that weren’t getting the playing time last year allowed the level of play to continue from what it was last year?

A. Definitely. Our guys that came in this year, what they do that no one sees is they pick us up in practice. If we’re having a good practice, they’ll come out and try to kick the crap out of us. They want to beat us to make us better. It’s a full-on competition in practice, and that’s what makes our starting five and our first guys off the bench a lot better, just because the eight, nine, 10, 11 guys off the bench, they are making us better during practice. Without them, we would not be where we are.

Same way with our coaching. Our coaches go out and we scout, just like we did last year, and they do a great job at picking apart every aspect of a team’s offense and defense, and we get the scouting report and we just try and take care of business from there.

Q. What’s next on your calendar? What are you really looking forward to after Plano? Have you even thought about anything?

A. No, I just kinda been thinking about Plano the whole time. Thinking about the next game and just kinda trying to prepare for it. Really nothing else, no other games going through my head. Just Plano tournament first and we’ll see what happens and go from there.

Q. How is Conlan the senior different? How have you been different so far as a player from what you were your first three years?

A. Wow. There’s a big difference. Before, I was skittish, scared and I didn’t really take charge. I don’t know. My confidence wasn’t there. I wasn’t really myself the first two years, and then last year, picked it up with the help of the teammates.

This year, just being with the guys I’ve been around my whole life, playing with them, I’ve really gotten used to the way we play together. I think that’s helped out a little more, but then again, last year we did great. I’d say the most change is confidence. I still have a lot to work on, there’s no doubt about that. Definitely have a lot more to work on. I wouldn’t say there’s too much change, but improved, yes. I still have a lot I can pick up on.

Q. Say we had to make a starting five of just Callahans. What’s your role on that team? What are you doing for that team?

A. Oh, boy. That’s a good question. ... OK, I would say, well Garrett’s the point, and Griffan would definitely be the three, and Brennan would be our five, that’s no doubt. I would throw Bryanne and Amberley in there. I would say maybe me at two to start, but if not me, her at two and then have me, Landan and Amberley come off the bench.

I don’t know. I guess I’d see myself as get to the free-throw line, hit the open shot, move the ball, work it around and try to make other players better, like my brothers, but they’d probably be making me better. I’ve never thought of that, but that’d be kind of cool, I guess, to see. That’d be kinda fun. I’d like that.

Q. What schools are you looking that. Are you going to play at the next level, and how’s the search going?

A. I haven’t really been hoping anybody calls. I haven’t really been looking for a certain college to call and hoping that we can get something going. I’m just kind of leaving things open right now, leaving all my options open and I’m not really worried about it too much,be’cause I don’t want it to affect anything. I just want to leave the team first, and we’ll just play our game, and whatever happens, happens. Whoever talks to you talks to you. You just wanna keep it aside and focus on what’s right now and the next game. I really don’t have any preference of where to go. The best fit. Just the best fit, really, [what’s] most comfortable.