Bo knows basketball.
So, Bo McCalebb, the O. Perry Walker graduate who became UNO’s career scoring leader knew within reason that his first real shot at making an NBA team after spending the past seven seasons in Europe was going to end Saturday when the Pelicans made their final cuts.
Thirty-year old point guards who haven’t been deemed worthy of even going to a training camp, despite leaving college as one of the top scorers in NCAA history, aren’t likely to make enough of an impression during their 10-day time at the end of the exhibition season to stick, even if it’s with their hometown team.
Which he didn’t. The team waived McCalebb on Saturday.
But at the least, it’s been worth it. And fun.
“It feels good to be back at home playing with a great group of guys and having my family and friends getting to come out to see me,” McCalebb said after Friday’s lone home exhibition game, which was also his first to experience in the Smoothie King Center since college. “Everybody’s dream is to play in the NBA.
“That’s why I’ve never given up on mine. I wouldn’t be here if I had.”
Those on hand included McCalebb’s mother, Tara Batiste, who’s battled heart and kidney problems much of Bo’s life and whose name he has tattooed on his left arm.
“She hasn’t seen me play since I left UNO,” said McCalebb, whose final season with the Privateers was 2008. “She told me she was going to the first person in the building.”
Batiste was among the few taking note when McCalebb entered the game in the second quarter.
Against the Miami Heat, McCalebb played only 12 minutes, 16 seconds, the least amount of any of the Pelicans’ 10 healthy players. He failed to score, missing his only two shots, but did have four assists, including an NBA-caliber drive and dish to Bryce Dejean-Jones for a corner 3-pointer.
That left the four-game exhibition norms for McCalebb, who was signed Oct. 15 after Norris Cole suffered a high ankle sprain, at 2.8 points per game and 2.3 assists.
Not exactly eye-popping numbers when you’re vying for one of possibly two roster spots, depending on whether the team decides to keep 14 or 15 players.
On Friday, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was noncommittal about McCalebb’s chances of making it, either with the Pels or any other NBA team.
“All I know is that he’s done a good job in whatever we’ve asked him to do here,” Gentry said. “He’s got good speed and has played up-tempo like we want to play.”
Eric Gordon acknowledged the difficulty of making an NBA roster, but said McCalebb has league-level skills.
“He’s relentless attacking the rim, and he’s always capable of finding the other guy,” Gordon said. “Bo’s finally gotten his chance and I think he’s done OK.”
But as McCalebb acknowledged, going against the bigger, faster — and better — players in the NBA is a challenge.
“It’s a big difference,” he said.
McCalebb’s time with the Pels was his first with an NBA team since he was on the Sacramento Kings summer league roster in 2008.
That followed an extraordinary career at UNO. McCalebb left after scoring 2,679 points, No. 21 in Division I at the time and still No. 24 seven years later.
That was accomplished despite going through two coaching changes, having to relocate to Texas-Tyler for a semester when Katrina struck and missing that 2005-06 season with a broken wrist before playing his final two seasons in the Human Performance Center because Lakefront Arena hadn’t reopened.
Katrina had a devastating effect on UNO athletics, triggering a meandering journey from Division III to Division II and back to Division I, although the Privateers are now in the Southland Conference instead of the Sun Belt.
But McCalebb is still loyal to his alma mater. He recently donated funds for a revamped practice court.
“It’s something they needed and something I wanted to do,” he said. “Sless (Privateers coach Mark Slessinger) is getting things done with the program.
“If the people at UNO hadn’t taken care of me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
McCalebb’s post-UNO career has been a travelogue of Europe. He’s played for teams in Serbia, Italy, Turkey, Germany and Macedonia, where he now has dual citizenship so he can be a member of that country’s national team.
“They speak Macedonian over there,” he said. “But I don’t even know the swear words.”
McCalebb has spent his offseasons in New Orleans, which is where he was when the Pels called him.
McCalebb, who could not be reached for comment Saturday, will probably now return to Europe where league play will begin shortly. He’s just uncertain about which team he will be playing for.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” he said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time.
“But at the end of the day, I’m going to keep doing what I love to do, which is to play basketball.”
Because if there’s something Bo does know, it’s basketball.