For Junior guard Nelson Kaputo, not getting lost in the hype is high on his priorities.
Because of the Bonnies’ NCAA Tournament snubs the past two seasons, the team is motivated to finally get over the hump this season, especially with the tournament-level hype surrounding the team. In fact, CBS Sports ranked the Bonnies the #1 college basketball team in New York on Wednesday.
Kaputo, a 6-foot guard from Toronto, Ontario, shared his thoughts about how the team doesn’t want to get lost in the hype.
“We’ve done a great job blocking it out,” Kaputo said. “We’re focusing on what we have to do.”
The Bonnies put up good numbers on the record sheet, finishing 20-12 on the season and 11-7 in conference play; however, Kaputo expects them to perform better this season due to a new emphasis on work ethic.
“It was a great off-season for all of us,” he said. “Individually, we all have gotten better, and personally, I think I’m the best I’ve been in my life.”
He felt the biggest improvement he made during the off-season was his strength.
“I’ve put on a lot of muscle this summer, and I think that’s going to allow me to be more effective on the court, being able to come off ball screens cleaner and taking bumps better,” he said.”My all-around game is going to improve this year.”
Kaputo said living with the team helped improve their bond.
“Most of the guys lived with one another over the summer and we’ve been around each other every single day,” he said. “The only time we’re not with each other is when we go to sleep. Most of us live in the townhouses as well, so off that strength alone, the chemistry on the team is going to keep building throughout the season. It’s like a brotherhood being on this team, and you’re going to see that carry onto the court when we’re out there balling and having fun with each other.”
This brotherhood the team has with each other carries over into Kaputo’s relationships with some of his fellow guards and forwards. He told me about how him, Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley have been in that position of learning from the veterans and how they taught him some things as well.
He is glad that, as a junior this season, he is able to follow in the footsteps as a mentor for some of the younger guys.
“As upperclassmen on this team, that’s the position that Matt, Jaylen and I are in with the younger guys,” Kaputo said. “We are able to teach them how to understand the system and how to compete at this level, just like the veteran guys, who were in our shoes at one point before, taught us. We understood what it took to be good before and what it takes for us to get where we want to be.”
Kaputo shows a lot of praise for the system Coach Schmidt imparts to his players, but he went over with me how the team could have done better with the system.
“Our struggle last year was figuring out how to play with each other within the system, not the system itself,” said Kaputo. “I love the system. It’s just a matter of getting to know the guys better and know how we play. Having a lot of returners from last year should help us with that. Coming into this year, everyone knows their role, and everyone is ready to play.”
While Kaputo shows his admiration for the system, he also shows it towards his head coach. He told me that Mark Schmidt is a great guy and coach, who is adept to the “open door policy” with his players, knows how to “install the winning mentality into his players” so they win games and gets him playing his best.
“He’s put me in a position to be successful time and time again,” he said. “There have been times in my career where I haven’t followed through in that position, but he tells me what I need to do to get back on the court. As a player, you want a coach that brings out the best in you, and that’s what he does.”
According to Kaputo, it sounds like Coach Mark Schmidt has command of the locker room and the support of his players to be able to lead his team to new heights this season.
“The whole team has that same picture in mind: the NCAA Tournament, and we’ve been working like it,” said Kaputo. “I think you guys are in for quite a season.”