Orr getting more familiar with place in Mesa's offense
Colorado Mesa men’s basketball coach Andy Shantz knew just where to look to find a big man with college experience when he became the head coach after Jim Heaps retired last spring.
Shantz went to a familiar junior college program in Eastern Arizona College and got 6-foot-7 forward Jon Orr.
“Coach Shantz contacted me, asking about some guys and Jon,” Eastern Arizona coach Maurice Leitzke said. “He’s a good player and good person. I thought he’d be a good fit. Coach Shantz got back to me right away. He can rebound the ball and shoot the ball.”
Shantz knows Leitzke through his wife’s brother, former Mesa State teammate Ron Oughton. Shantz and Oughton played on the 1995-96 Mesa men’s basketball team.
Orr is the second player to play in Leitzke’s program at Eastern Arizona and continue on at Mesa. The other was Kalonji Paschal three years ago.
Orr has started every game for the Mavericks this season at forward and is averaging 23 minutes per game. He is averaging 7.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
“Jon’s starting to get comfortable,” Shantz said. “Jon’s good when he’s aggressive. He presents matchup problems for people because of his size. He’s 6-7, but he can step out and shoot that 3-point shot, and he’s real good off the dribble, too. He’s a well-rounded basketball player. He fits in great with our style of play.”
Orr also plays solid defense for the Mavericks.
“Because he’s long and athletic and can move his feet, we can match him up on perimeter players,” Shantz said. “He plays extremely hard. He takes pride on that end of the floor.”
Orr had his best game of the season Saturday in the loss to 13th-ranked Colorado Mines. He scored a career-high 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, shot 58 percent from the floor (7 of 12) and made four 3-pointers.
“Saturday night Mike (Melillo) fouled out,” Orr said. “Mike is our scorer and leader. I did what I could, I guess, and made some shots.”
Orr, 22, grew up in an athletic family with two sisters and one brother and played several sports, like his siblings, especially basketball. His older sister played volleyball at Eastern Arizona, and his younger sister, Rachel, plays volleyball and competes in the high jump on the track team at Utah State.
“We’re close,” Orr said of his younger sister Rachel. “She’s probably the most athletic in our family. We’re a really competitive family and really close to each other.”
Orr averaged 14.6 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game last season for the Gila Monsters. He ranked in the top 10 in the nation in rebounds. He played in 26 games for the Gila Monsters as a freshman, averaging 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Orr played against current Mesa teammates Jerry Duckworth and Carlos Perez at Eastern Arizona. Duckworth played for Cochise (Ariz.) College, and Perez played for Arizona Western College.
“(Orr) came on second half of freshman year,” Leitzke said. “As a sophomore we had two big kids get hurt, so Jon’s role became so much bigger. He was playing 35 to 36 minutes a night. Jon’s a real versatile player. He can guard multiple people.
“He did a lot of things. He garnered a few Division I looks. He turned down some Division I opportunities to go to Mesa.”
Orr visited the Colorado Mesa campus last April.
“I really liked it, I liked all the guys,” he said. “I liked the campus and the school.
“I was a little nervous at first, getting to know the program. It’s always different, but it was really easy for me. All the guys were easy to play with. It was like my juco, very similar styles of play. I’m a rebounder and shoot when I’m open. I try to be a good screener.”