#FocusDisruption is a collaboration of all the media outlets within Montclair State’s School of Communication and Media. Our goal is to report stories that highlight the effects or disruption of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We will be focusing on five main points that are experiencing the changes of a post-pandemic world: education, misinformation, the workplace, climate change and mental health.
There are several different personalities featured on the Montclair State University men’s basketball team, but few stand out the way graduate student forward Irving Callender IV does.
Head coach Justin Potts agrees.
“He’s just a great young man,” Potts said. “A guy that has really committed himself to being a good student athlete. He’s a great son and older brother for his family and a guy that all of our guys like being around because he has such a good personality.”
Callender IV has matured into the player he is now on and off the court through many trials and tribulations, but credits his late father for molding him into the man he is today.
Unfortunately, the man who helped raise him tragically passed away last summer in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Callender IV’s father, who was a detective for the Newark Police Department, shared an extremely close relationship with the fifth-year forward.
“He was a role model to me and like my best friend,” Callender said. “I could tell him anything, you know? Someone who I looked up to.”
There is nothing quite like a father-son connection. Callender vowed to bring his father’s most important life lessons along with him.
“[He taught me to] never accept excuses. For example, in a game, if you’re tired, don’t use it as an excuse for a missed layup or a turnover,” Callender said. “And even in real life, say, if I didn’t get a job, what are you going to do after that? You [have to] move forward.”
Before last season, Callender wore No. 4 on his jersey, however, he made the switch to No. 5 in honor of his dad.
“That’s more than a number to not just me, but [to] my family,” Callender said. “He wore it in high school and his number was retired. I wear it with pride.”
Throughout most of his basketball career at Montclair State, Callender was especially known for his energy and tenacity on the defensive end, but that all changed after a breakout season on the offensive side.
Ever since Callender switched to No. 5, he has been on an absolute tear. After averaging 12.6 points and seven rebounds, in addition to starting in all nine games last season, he was named Honorable Mention All-NJAC — and rightfully so, Potts adds.
“He’s a little bit of a silent assassin,” Potts said. “He doesn’t say much, but he plays with a great motor and he gives a ton of effort on both ends of the floor. He’s a very committed guy and he just finds ways to help the team win.”
Averaging a career-high of 18.3 points per game and 9.3 rebounds through seven games, Potts says that over the last couple of seasons, Callender has proved to be an extremely important piece to the program and continues to only get better.
“He’s meant as much as anybody [else],” Potts said. “Between him and [junior guard] Keyon Pryce, in terms of their growth on the court and off the court, they’ve probably grown as much as anybody I’ve ever been around.”
Not long after the passing of Callender’s father, teammate and best friend Keyon Pryce helped gather a group of his closest friends and they all made a trip to his house to show support.
“We all took a trip up to his house just to show him we were all there for him,” Pryce said. “It was really touching when I saw everybody hurting. I felt hurt. Me and [Callender] weren’t as close at the time, but he was always one of my true friends. And, when we did go, it was a really warm and touching feeling, and I feel like he’s been my brother since then.”
Life gives everyone battles to fight and in times of need, we need someone to lean on. The Montclair State basketball team provided exactly that for Callender.
“They’re people I can lean on, and they are easy to talk to,” Callender said. “They’re more than teammates and friends. They are like my brothers.”