Gabe Kalscheur’s hot hand making an impact in freshman season

The guard has impressed with his shooting, attitude and work ethic.

Freshman Gabe Kalscheur looks the defender in the eye as he dribbles the ball at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Friday, Nov. 30. The Gophers beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 83-76.

Tony Saunders

Freshman Gabe Kalscheur looks the defender in the eye as he dribbles the ball at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Friday, Nov. 30. The Gophers beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 83-76.

Nick Jungheim

Before the season, many outside the program expected Gabe Kalscheur to serve primarily as a role player for Minnesota. However, just a month into his freshman campaign, he’s proven himself as one of the team’s most valuable weapons.

Kalscheur, a freshman from Edina, Minnesota, has started every game for the Gophers this season. Few foresaw Kalscheur getting an opportunity to start immediately, but his stellar play and attention to detail earned him a spot among the lineup.

“It’s hard to trust freshmen,” said head coach Richard Pitino. “They do a lot of wacky things. They’re young, it takes time. That’s normal. But with [Kalscheur], he just doesn’t act that way.  Every little thing in practice is important to him. If it’s a stretch, if it’s making a layup, free throw shooting drills, whatever it is, it’s very important to him and he doesn’t take it lightly.”

Among coaches and teammates, Kalscheur’s maturity has stood out and impressed those who watch him practice every day.

“We tell him to shoot 50 free throws after practice,” Pitino said to reporters earlier this season. “Gabe has a routine where he dribbles it twice and then when he shoots it, make or miss, he blows a kiss to the heavens. He does it every time when he practices. I sat there and I filmed it, he didn’t know I was watching. And it’s just discipline: every single day, every rep that he does, he’s going to take it seriously.”

On the court, Kalscheur’s stats don’t suggest that he’s a freshman. With a scoring average of 11.9 points per game, he trails senior Jordan Murphy (14.6) and junior Amir Coffey (14.3) for the team lead. Kalscheur’s main strength is his 3-point shooting. He made multiple 3-point field goals in all but one of his first eight games.

His efficiency from the perimeter has provided plenty of highlights already. Against Utah, Kalscheur made five of six shots from behind the arc. Against Santa Clara, he hit seven threes and totaled 25 points. Through eight games he’s made nearly 54 percent of his three-point attempts, the 14th-best percentage in the nation. Among freshmen, he’s second only to Idaho’s Cameron Tyson (57.7 percent). 

“I like when it goes in,”  Pitino said jokingly about Kalscheur’s shot. “Nice, high release, he’s confident with it, he has good rotation on the ball.”

Against Washington, he proved himself capable of performing in big moments. Minnesota trailed by one with less than five seconds remaining when he heaved up a desperation three that hit all net, giving the Gophers a 68-66 victory. Upon making the shot, Kalscheur didn’t celebrate. Instead, he kept a blank expression and simply jogged up the court to get back on defense. This stoic reaction didn’t surprise his teammates, who swarmed the court to mob him once the buzzer sounded.

“That’s pretty much Gabe’s personality,” Murphy said. “Gabe really shows very little emotion and when he does, it’s pretty rare. I really wasn’t surprised after that.”

Kalscheur’s maturity is nothing new to those who have spent time around him. Coffey and Kalscheur are both alumni of the Howard Pulley AAU program. He said as long as the two have known each other, Kalscheur has always taken a professional approach to the game.

“I knew that as soon as he got here,” Coffey said of Kalscheur’s maturity. “The way he carries himself in practice and in workouts. I’ve known him since high school so I’ve always known that about him.”

In fact, Kalscheur’s high school, DeLaSalle, is just up the road from Williams Arena, where he and the rest of the Gophers will play their next game on Saturday against Arkansas State.