By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
Need any more evidence that the newest St. Bonaventure basketball signee is a special talent?
If Nelson Kaputo’s spot on Canada’s under-17 national team, top-ten ranking on North Pole Hoops’s Canadian prospect list and 47-1 record in his final season at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto aren’t convincing enough for the notoriously skeptical group known as Bonnies basketball fans, maybe some rare comments from his new coach in Bonaventure’s official press release will do the trick.
Mark Schmidt’s initial comments were par for the course, not drastically different from any of his quotes on new recruits. “We are ecstatic to have Nelson join our program,” Schmidt said. “He’s a consummate point guard … a pass-first point guard with a great feel for the game. He’s an attacker and a playmaker on the floor.”
A couple paragraphs down, however, Schmidt did something unusual- he talked about depth and even started to talk strategy for a bit.
“Nelson gives us depth,” Schmidt said. “We won’t have to shift Marcus (Posley) to the point guard if something happens to Jay (Adams) – we can keep him at his natural position (shooting guard). He really gives us more flexibility. Maybe we’ll play all three of them together at times. It’s just a good situation to have more depth.”
Even in the press releases for his most highly touted signings (Andrew Nicholson and Jalen Adams come to mind despite ending up on opposite sides of the spectrum), Schmidt has not really discussed where an incoming player fits in his scheme. He usually opts to wait until practice starts in October to talk about roles with his players, and most of them don’t really know how much playing time they’re going to get until game action.
In this case, Schmidt is already setting the expectation that Kaputo will have a spot in the rotation based on his talent level and the level of competition he has faced in Canada. After all the hard work it took Canadian recruiter Jerome Robinson and the coaching staff to recruit him, then successfully get him reclassified to the 2015 high school class so he is eligible to play this upcoming season, it’s a very realistic expectation. The work ethic will obviously need to be consistently high since the Bonaventure coaching staff is notorious for keeping poor practice performers on the bench, but judging off of his national team selection, practice shouldn’t be a major issue for the 416er.
The addition of Kaputo to the rotation brings us to the most important word in the press release: depth. The Achilles’ Heel of the 2014-15 Bonnies was that they were not a deep team, and they got exposed when Adams suffered that season-ending finger injury and an unprepared Iakeem Alston was thrown into the fire. As Schmidt pointed out, Posley had to play out of position when Alston struggled, causing a total lack of flexibility in the season’s final stretch. Kaputo fixes that problem, but he’s more than just a band-aid; he may prove to be just as skilled of a point guard as Adams.
Even if Adams is healthy the entire year, it will certainly help Schmidt and the Bonnies to have a capable guard to come off the bench and give him a breather when he needs it. A six-man rotation was the norm last year, and Posley and Adams were the only guards to consistently average double-digit minutes a game (Alston didn’t see much action until it became necessary to plug him in). This upcoming season, Kaputo and emerging sophomore Idris Taqqee will be expected to provide quality minutes in reserve. The year after that, Matt Mobley will be eligible to join the fold. The guard group could be loaded for years to come.
The potential of the trio (Adams, Kaputo and Posley) playing together at times was an unexpected look into the brainstorming of the man entering his ninth season at the helm. Schmidt talking strategy in June is almost as unprecedented as an Atlantic 10 team having three 6-foot-1 guards on the floor at the same time.
We may have a term for all of these anomalies come March: the Kaputo Effect.