When Danny Callandrillo was asked yesterday to describe his game, he replied, "Well, I'm not the fastest player in the world."
Still, no defense has been very successful against the Seton Hall senior guard this year. He is the fourth-leading scorer in Division I, averaging 26 points a game.
"As far as jump shots go, Danny Callandrillo's is as good as you'll find," says Seton Hall Coach Hoddy Mahon. The Pirates (9-9 overall and 1-6 in the Big East) visit Georgetown at 1:30 today at the Capital Centre, hoping to end an eight-game losing streak.
Georgetown (17-5, 6-3) is looking for its third straight conference victory. Most teams, Georgetown included, usually concede Callandrillo his points and concentrate their defensive efforts on the other Pirates.
This season, the 6-foot-2 guard has beaten three teams--Providence, Princeton and Houston--with jump shots at the buzzer or with one second left. He is averaging 29 points in Big East games--on only 18 shots per game--and is shooting 61 percent from the field.
He has twice broken the conference single-game scoring record. Against St. John's, Callandrillo scored 38 points. He made 14 of 23 from the field, 10 of 11 from the foul line, and had five rebounds, eight assists and seven steals.
"There isn't any one phase of the game that he has to improve," Mahon said. "He's good at everything."
You wouldn't know that to listen to Callandrillo.
"It's not that he doesn't have confidence," said former Seton Hall coach Bill Raftery. "Confidence, in fact, is what is making him play so well this season. He's in a stretch now where he believes that he will make every shot he takes. When a shooter of Danny's caliber is in that frame of mind, he is almost impossible to stop. He's like a putter who's in a prolonged groove on the golf course."
Callandrillo played high school basketball in North Bergen, N.J., and was not heavily recruited. Now he is considered one of the best guards in the nation and plays in a conference that features two other excellent guards--Georgetown's Eric Floyd and Boston College's John Bagley.
"I feel Danny is better than the other two, even though they have more physical ability," Mahon said. "If I was selecting the all-Big East back court, I'd have to pick Danny first, then a tie between Floyd and Bagley."
Asked to pick the best shooter in the conference, Callandrillo said, without hesitation, "Eric Floyd."
Like Floyd, Callandrillo is a technique shooter. After leading the conference in scoring as a sophomore, Callandrillo changed his shot by pulling the ball from the far right, back to the center of his body. He works on his shot for two or three hours a day.
Opposing teams have tried to stop Callandrillo with 6-7 and 6-8 forwards. Because he's quicker than most players that size, Callandrillo has perfected a dribble right, pull-up jumper.
His success this season has led to a staggering number of interview requests, which has prompted Callandrillo, a public relations major, to study linguistics on his own.
"I realize I may be involved in P.R. or sports communications work, and it's something I need to improve," he said.
Callandrillo's success also encouraged his 85-year-old deaf father to make a rare appearance at a Seton Hall game against Princeton. When Callandrillo, the youngest of 11 children, won the game with an 18-foot jumper, he turned to his father and said, "I love you," via sign language.
It's the same message Seton Hall basketball fans have been sending to Callandrillo all season.