Dominic Calegari has experience.
In fact, the Berkeley, Calif. native has the most experience on the UC Davis men’s basketball squad as he has started 65 straight games and is the only senior on the team.
One thing Calegari doesn’t have, though, is a victory over Pacific. No Aggie in the past 70 years has beaten the Tigers for that matter. That is something Calegari would like to change.
Before taking the floor in tonight’s matchup with Pacific, Calegari sat down with Aggie to share his thoughts on the big game, being a leader, and how he gets amped up before tip-off.
How do you get ready for a game?
I like to try and relax during pregame. I try not to let the nerves or butterflies get built up as much as possible until right before the game and then hype myself up. At home, I just try and focus on my daily schedule. I try and relax – maybe watch a movie. Then, closer to game time, I start listening to some music. I try and focus completely on the game at that point. I listen to a lot of Green Day – alternative music like that.
What about on the road?
On the road, I don’t really have the luxury of having my own schedule. It’s kind of what the coaches have on the agenda for us. If I can manipulate the schedule, I’ll do that. Usually, we have a shoot-around in the morning, walk through the plays, go back to the hotel, eat as a team, relax a little bit, watch a little film and then go to the game.
Has any of that changed since you began playing at UC Davis?
When I was younger, I would just try and get super hyped up before a game, even in the morning. I realized that I just psyched myself out and would think too much about it. I would spend too much energy early instead of when it actually mattered. That’s really been a learning process for me.
How would you describe your role on the team this year?
I’m trying to be as much of a leader as possible. I want to use my experience to make guys that haven’t been in certain situations before more confident. The way I like to do that is just seem calm and relaxed, like it’s not a big deal at all. I don’t want to put more pressure on guys than they’re putting on themselves. When I was younger, that was my biggest thing. I didn’t want the pressure. I would be so scared that if I missed a shot, I’d come out of the game. I don’t want guys to feel like that. I want them to feel like they have the luxury to play their own game. But that’s another thing. That’s different for each guy. You have to figure out what works for some people and what works for others. I’ve made a conscious effort to help some guys.
Is that a role you picked for yourself or one that coach Gary Stewart asked you to work on?
Both. It’s something that I realized at the end of last year. I realized ‘Holy crap. I’m the only senior coming into this [season].’ I remembered when I was first here. When I was a freshman there was only one senior, Phil Rasmussen. He did so much for me and helped me get ready for games. I redshirted that year, but he took me out to dinner and I looked up to that guy more than anything. Just thinking back to that experience was kind of a wake up call to me. You’ve got to step up and fill the shoes of the older guys that left and be someone that these guys are going to look up to and appreciate. Phil was the greatest mentor I could ask for. I set out to be as much like him as possible. I wanted to help the guys out, make them comfortable and make them feel like this is where they belong.
Do you feel like the team is hyped up for tonight’s game against Pacific?
Yeah, I think there’s no way not to be. I’ll be completely honest – I set out two team goals at the beginning of this year: one of them was to make it to the NCAA tournament and the other was to beat Pacific. It’s something that I feel like every guy, when it comes down to their senior year here at Davis, wants to do. It would be huge for us to win and I think the guys realize how much that would mean to me. Everybody wants this to be the year.
Do you guys get tired of hearing about Pacific?
Yeah. Every year, it’s the same kind of thing. Just like ‘Gosh, do you guys know you haven’t beaten them in 60 something years?’ We’re like ‘Yes, we knew that.’
What’s your favorite thing to do in a game?
Used to be dunking for sure. Now I think it would be stringing a couple of things together. Like getting a block on defense and then coming down and doing something positive on offense. That kind of thing gets the momentum rolling like crazy. Once you get that momentum going it’s the most fun thing ever to be a part of that.
What’s something the fans don’t know about the team?
On Mondays we like to have fun days. We’ve played dodgeball. We’ve played wiffleball. That’s just kind of getting guys back from the weekend instead of just having a death practice on Monday. Guys don’t look forward to that coming off a nice day off on Sunday. But if you have something where everyone knows they’re going to have some fun and be together as a team, I think that just gets the morale of the team up and ready to go on Tuesday.
Who’s the best on the team at dodgeball?
I think Todd [Lowenthal] is actually one of the best. He’s just quick and tricky and he’ll hide the ball. As soon as you turn your head, you get clocked.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at email@example.com.