‘When he does that, it’s special’: Gabe Kalscheur’s consistent shot-hunting fits in at Iowa State

Minnesota transfer Gabe Kalscheur is expected to play major minutes for Iowa State in 2021-22.

James Powell

AMES- Sometimes, the best thing in life is a fresh start.

A new environment and new teammates may be exactly what a player needs to recapture their magic and raw talent. Senior guard Gabe Kalscheur is hoping that’s the case for him this season in Ames.

After three seasons as a starter for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Edina, Minn., native decided to take his talents south to Ames and become a part of what Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger is building at Iowa State.

How he got to Iowa State

It was always Minnesota coming out of high school for Kalscheur. He attended De La Salle High School in Edina, where he led his team to three state titles. Minnesota was the only collegiate team he visited and one of only two teams to offer him, the other being Pittsburgh.

His freshman year at Minnesota saw him start every game for the team and averaged 30 minutes per game throughout the season. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging exactly 10 points a game. His true contribution to that team, however, was not his scoring totals on a nightly basis.

It was the fact that he shot 41 percent from three-point range during the season and was consistently up against the opposition’s best offensive wing player when he was on the defensive end.

His stellar freshman year featured a season-high 25 points early in the season against Santa Clara, including 7-12 from three in that game. He also had games in conference play against Indiana and Rutgers when he made six three-pointers apiece.

One of his best games came in the NCAA tournament against Louisville when he had 24 points on eight of 14 shooting and hit five of his 11 threes. 

Kalscheur figured to be a factor in their offense more and more as veterans left, and he filled up more of the touches on the offensive side of the ball.

He was never able to find that magic from long range in his final two years, shooting 34 percent from three his sophomore year and 24 percent his junior year. His third year as a starter ended abruptly when he was sidelined in February with a broken finger for the rest of the season.

Despite the low shooting percentages in those two years, Kalscheur never wavered in his approach. He shot 338 total shots his sophomore year, compared to 283 his freshman year. He only made one less three (76) his second year compared to his first (77). The only issue was that he shot 35 more of them in his sophomore season.

His junior year featured a similar pace of shot-taking until his season abruptly ended.

What those statistics show is that Kalscheur never changed his approach and his mindset as a shooter. He did have a couple of stand-out performances from what was otherwise a down sophomore year. He scored a career-high 34 points against Oklahoma State in 2019. His numbers in that game were 11 of 14 overall and seven of nine from three. 

His junior year high in scoring was just 17 against Green Bay, and he shot just one of eight from three in that particular contest. His best game shooting the three came against Purdue in what would end up being his penultimate game as a Gopher. He poured in 16 points and made four of seven from long range.

After three years playing for Minnesota, Kalscheur overall shot 180 for 521 from long distance, good for a percentage of 34.5. Certainly, not a percentage to sneeze at from long-distance, but what was concerning for Kalscheur from a statistics perspective is the consistent decline as his career went on.

Minnesota went 14-15 in his third year, their coach was fired and Kalscheur decided to enter the transfer portal, though he said going back to Minnesota was always in the cards.

He committed to Otzelberger and Iowa State six months ago, April 10. In his announcement, he said that “Minnesota will always be home to [him].” 

Kalscheur came into the program with all of the other transfers after Iowa State went through a similar coaching change to Minnesota and will feature a mass overhaul of transfers in the upcoming season.

What Kalscheur brings to Iowa State

His head coach at Iowa State thinks very highly of his motor on the defensive end and thinks he can contribute in a meaningful matter shooting the ball.

“We’ve instilled a lot of confidence in him and he knows how we need him to play,” Otzelberger said on Kalscheur. “I keep using the analogy to a [Stephen] Curry, I don’t want to set the bar or the expectation too high, but what I’m saying is that level of aggressiveness and that he’s constantly hunting his shot.”

Part of what factors into the decline of shooters at times is their confidence decreases. Two years’ worth of inconsistencies and sub-par performances surely didn’t help Kalscheur’s confidence in his shot, something he seemed to have in abundance in his first year of college basketball.

Kalscheur came in here looking for a fresh start, as do most transfers. For Kalscheur, it could be as simple as having a change of environment, a new practice facility to get shots up in, and a new arena to try and recapture that shooting stroke in his fourth year. Otzelberger has said to be trying to give him that green light to shoot from deep, and Kalscheur says that helps him mentally.

“As a shooter that’s kind of what you dream of is continuing to have that confidence from the coaching staff,” Kalscheur said when asked about what his head coach’s confidence means to him.

Offense was certainly lacking from Iowa State in the 2020 season.

The Cyclones averaged just over 65 points a game on 41 percent shooting overall, including 32 percent on threes. Having a player who has started many games in a Power Five conference and knows what it looks like to light up a scoreboard can loom large for a developing team and a developing culture.

Kalscheur figures to factor into this Cyclone team in a big way and could potentially start at the shooting guard or small forward position. Otzelberger did not mention him as a guy he could see consistently bringing the ball up as a point guard, but Kalscheur’s impact could be felt in many ways.

In terms of his shooting, his freshman numbers outduel everyone who got up enough shots to be considered on last year’s Cyclone team. While his numbers have dipped since then, a fresh start and a change of scenery could mean that the Cyclones see more of his freshman numbers than the two years following it.

As far as his defense is concerned, he fits like a glove with Otzelberger’s philosophies. His ability to make the offensive player uncomfortable and be an above-average on-ball defender is something Otzelberger surely liked to see on his scouting report.

In terms of how Kalscheur thinks he could fit into this iteration of the Cyclones, he thinks his skills on the defensive end are exactly what the team needs.

“I think what I bring and what my teammates bring is just buying in on defense and the communication we have helps a lot with the little things,” Kalscheur said.

Having started for almost three complete seasons and being a team captain his junior year, Kalscheur has developed a sense for the game and a strong mindset that his head coach truly admires.

“He’s a very cerebral player,” Otzelberger said. “Somebody that understands the game and has a great feel.”

Starting a new chapter could pay dividends for Kalscheur on the court in that surrounding himself with a new environment could help spark the shooting prowess he showed consistently his freshman year. But off the court, Kalscheur’s experiences and leadership can’t be ignored for a team that could desperately use some with almost a whole new roster after last year.

Kalscheur took on a leadership role in his third and final year in Minnesota, as he was one of the most experienced players on last year’s Gopher team, at least in terms of years at the school. He was the only player that played in that tournament game against Louisville.

He used that experience with his former team, and he thinks it can carry over to his new team as well.

“I feel like where I can help this team is that knowledge I have… in the game of college basketball, it’s a long season,” Kalscheur said. “It’s all about staying level-headed and trusting the process.”

Whether it’s rediscovering his stroke from downtown this season or helping this newly-coached Cyclone team, Kalscheur figures to play a significant role in how this team looks on the court and how they come together off of it.