Not many players take as much pride in their defensive prowess as junior Wellsboro Hornets basketball player Darryn Callahan.
When looking at some of the matchups he’s been part of, Callahan has dominated many of them, and his performance in the 2021 season is why he is this year’s Tioga Publishing Boys Basketball Defensive Player of the Year.
“I was extremely excited when I had heard that I won this year,” Callahan said on winning the award. “A lot of people want to win the awards, but I don’t think a lot of people know what it takes to win them,”
The stats aren’t as flashy as other possible picks for Defensive Player of the Year, but when watching the way Callahan shuts down other players, there is no question he is one of the best in the Nothern Tier League.
Callahan racked up 34 steals during the 2021 season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
He has been asked to guard the opposing team’s best player nearly every night, meaning every one of those 34 steals is earned.
“Darryn is normally assigned the oppositions top-scorer,” Wellsboro Head Coach Steve Adams said. “By him assuming that role that allows our team defense to attack in multiple ways. It helps us to not let a team get comfortable on offense and forces them to find other players or ways to score.”
His ability to affect the game by limiting whoever he plays against to doing things they may not be comfortable with, Callahan is a player who forces the ball out of the opposing team’s best players’ hands and forces them to try and beat them other ways.
“Knowing their tendencies is a big part of it,” Callahan said. “Each player has a certain thing that they like to do more than the other. Some like to shoot some and some like to drive, and a lot of it is watching film and knowing what they are trying to do.”
As a small sample size of the impact he had, Callahan held Mt. Carmel’s top-scorer Michael Balichick to seven-under their season average.
He also went to a hostile environment in a pivotal regular-season game where they traveled to South Williamsport late in the year.
Callahan was a menace on defense and helped the Hornets control the game throughout.
“I remember us playing in South Williamsport and Darryn frustrating their top scorer,” Adams said. “In almost every game we played this year there have been moments in the game that Darryn made their top-scorer uncomfortable or forced them to play differently. This would lead to our team-defense getting stops and turnovers. Darryn’s conditioning was huge. It allowed him to play most minutes hounding the other team’s top weapon but also playing well on offense.”
During that matchup, Callahan showcased his ability once again, holding South Williamsport’s top-scorer in Secoy Roberts to only nine points, nearly nine under his season average.
In their two matchups against Mansfield held Karson Dominick to just 5.5 points per game (he averages over 14) and against Liberty held Noah Spencer to four under his season average.
Very few top scorers throughout the season were able to reach or eclipse their season average when playing the Hornets and Callahan had a huge part in that.
“At the beginning of the season, I knew I would be guarding the best player on each team and kind of had a list,” Callahan said. “For most games, I was able to cross that player off my list.”
The list goes on and on for games that Callahan made a noticeable impact on the defensive end of the floor. When it comes to hampering a team’s best player, Callahan is a specialist.
From having the understanding of what is needed from him to possessing the physical gifts and mental awareness, Callahan checks all the boxes to a top-tier defender.
“Darryn’s understanding of team-defense has allowed him to shine as a defensive stopper. Darryn is a versatile defender that can guard players with different skill sets,” Adams said. “That allows us to switch up our defensives within a man-to-man scheme.”
On top of his top-notch on-ball defense, he is an aggressive rebounder, topping the 10-rebound mark five times standing at just six feet tall, and averaging an incredible seven per game.
“Many times I saw a ball shot and seem to be hanging in the air and Darryn comes out of nowhere to rebound it,” Adams said.
Callahan has proven to be one of the few true stoppers in the NTL on defense in 2021 and if his ascension from last season to this season as a defender is any indication, Callahan should be a player to watch heading into his senior season.