03 - 11
July 2021
5 Caleb Houstan (CAN)
Long Read
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Calm Houstan shows he's more than a sniper, out to repeat Barrett's magic

RIGA / DAUGAVPILS (Latvia) - Caleb Houstan has made his name predominantly as a marksman with a smooth stroke and serene style. The calm Canadian has struggled lighting it up in Latvia, but still Houstan is impressing observers with other traits to his game as he hopes to make more history for his country.

Houstan ranks tied for third in scoring for the undefeated Canadians with 13.5 points a game while also grabbing 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.3 steals. While those numbers are solid, the main number that stands out is 21.2% - as in Houstan's three-point shooting percentage after hitting 7-of-33 three-point attempts through the Round of 16.

Talking to Canada head coach Paul Weir, it doesn't seem that there is any concern about Houstan's possible shooting woes. Moreover, the playcaller has been impressed with everything else that Houstan is doing for the title-contending team.

"The great thing about Caleb is his bread and butter, his shooting. He's a tremendous shooter. He's got a beautiful stroke. But he’s impacting the game in so many other ways," Weir said. "He's a great passer, he can use ball screens. He had some great rebounding at both ends of the court and he's shown an ability to be an elite one-on-one defender. He's the total package and we’re really lucky to have him."

Canada captain Ryan Nembhard also noted the variety of things that Houstan can do.

"He's developed a lot over the years. Obviously he's a great shooter, but there's a lot more to his game. His ability to create and put the ball on the floor," Nembhard said.

The point guard should know since in addition to being a compatriot, he was also Houstan's teammate last season at Monteverde Academy, whom the duo guided to the United States high school national title. In fact, Nembhard said Houstan has more freedom playing with the Canada team than he did at Monteverde.

"I think over here he’s able to show a little more of his skill," the guard said.

Showing his skill and showing off himself, however, do not go hand in hand with Houstan. The native of the Toronto suburb Mississauga is not prone to throw down dunks in warm-ups - though the wing's athleticism is excellent.

"I think everyone has their own way of getting into the game, and I just like to be calm and not overthink things and play my game. From experience, I think that's when I play my best," he said of his calm demeanor.

And in this day of athletes all over social media promoting themselves, Houstan is the only player on the Canada team without an account on Instagram or Twitter.

"It's not that there's a reason, it's just never been a priority for me, and I've been focusing on other things," he explains.

One focus of his is helping forget his last experience on the youth global stage. Houstan played two years younger at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018. Canada lost to the United States in the Semi-Finals, a result that can be excepted considering that USA have never lost in the history of the U17 World Cup. But Canada then were beaten 90-77 in the Third Place Game by Puerto Rico.

"Yeah, those losses definitely hurt. especially Puerto Rico because that was a very winnable game. It's a lot of motivation this time around to finish the job," admitted Houstan, who averaged 5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 11 minutes in that tournament.

He also said that playing in that event helped him have a different mindset for Latvia to be a leader.

"When I was there, I was with a lot of older guys so it showed me a lot of different things and I knew what to expect as a leader for the team," said Houstan, who is a year younger than the rest of the competition in Latvia as he was born in 2003.

Houstan, who is projected as a top-10 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, is ready to use that leadership mentality and help his team accomplish the other item on which he is focusing: namely matching the feat of another Toronto native.

Houstan was 14 years old in the summer of 2017 when RJ Barrett took the globe by storm and carried Canada to the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup title. That was the country's first ever global gold medal - in either men's or women's basketball, youth or senior team. And it captured the imagination of a whole nation.

"It was great. I watched the games during the tournament, and it was great to see them win gold. It was a huge moment for basketball in Canada," Houstan remembered.

When asked would it would mean to match what Barrett and that group of Canadians did and win a second U19 crown, Houstan said: "It would mean a lot. I mean it's been one of my goals since I was young: to win a gold medal at one of these events. So it would be special for sure."

Regardless if Houstan can carry Canada to the peak of the podium, he is showing the world that he is special.