Kaputo “I’m the best I’ve ever been”

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.”

 

 

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Bonnies look to continue home opener winning tradition, despite questions

By Mike Hogan

As the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro, one of St. Bonaventure’s most accomplished journalism graduates, stated in his article on the Bona Blog — it’s the season Bonnies Fans have been awaiting for a very long time.

The journey starts tonight in the Reilly Center at 8 p.m. against longtime rival Niagara.

Preparing To win (possibly) without Adams

One of the biggest storylines that has gotten a lot of attention this week is whether or not Jaylen Adams will play tonight vs Niagara. Adams is questionable  with an ankle injury that he sustained during the exhibition match-up against Niagara last Saturday.

Adams did not practice all week and sources say he’s been spotted on crutches, likely ruling him out for tonight.

If Adams can’t go, Junior guard Nelson Kaputo will likely get the start.

Last year, after not playing the first nine games for academic reasons, Kaputo averaged 2.0 points and 0.8 assists per game. Against Fordham last year he played 36 minutes and dished out six assists for the Bonnies. His highest scoring total came against George Mason, where he played 20 minutes and scored 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting.

Can History Repeat Itself?

The Bonnies have won their last six meetings with Niagara dating back to 2011, including last year’s game in Buffalo where the Bonnies came away with a 79-69 victory. Tonight marks the 158th meeting between the two big 4 rivals, with the Bonnies currently leading the series by an overwhelming 88 wins to 69 losses, and the margin only gets bigger at the RC where the Bonnies hold a 53-18 record vs Niagara.

Stacking up the Squads

This year’s team brings a lot of experience to the table as the team is returning four starters and seven letter winners. While Adams is questionable for tonight, Matt Mobley will still be there to pick up the slack as the two are known to be one of the best back-court tandems in the country. The lineup will also feature other strong role players such as Idris Taqqee, Josh Ayeni, LaDarien Griffin, Nelson Kaputo, Courtney Stockard, and Amadi Ikpeze. New additions like Izaiah Brockington, Tshiefu Ngalakulondi, and Ndene Gueye will also be mixed into the action.

Niagara brings experience to the table, as the team returns all five of its leading scorers from last year’s team which finished at 10-23. While last year’s results were not desirable Niagara is also primed to have a pretty solid year as they were picked to finish in the top five of the MAAC. The guys to key on for Niagara are Matt Scott who was named to the all-preseason MAAC first-team, and senior guard Kahlil Dukes who earned second team honors. Scott lead the team in scoring, rebounding, and steals last season, while Dukes was 11th in the MAAC in scoring and hit 92% of his shots from the line.

 

Keys for victory and prediction:

 

Obviously, if Adams is indeed ruled out for this game, other guys will have to chip in and take the pressure off of Mobley. Look for guys like Stockard (who scored 20 points in last week’s exhibition), and Idris Taqqee to step up and take the scoring load off of Mobley. Overall, even without Adams, this is a game the Bonnies should be able to handle. Look for Niagara to come in and play aggressive with nothing to lose. Niagara didn’t finish well last year, but they did put up a fight against the Bonnies, and they certainly aren’t a pushover.

Column: Fans should reserve judgment of Kaputo’s academic issues

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

It was a frigid mid-December day, and some of my classmates and I were panicking in a nondescript Plassmann Hall classroom.

In ten minutes, we would be taking our macroeconomic principles final. We scoured our notes one more time, hoping for that one stroke of genius where we suddenly understood the material that might as well have been in a foreign language all semester.

After a few horrific exam scores, the writing was on the wall for me: pass the final, pass the class. Fail the final, get an “F” and take a business class again in the spring. No pressure.

Somehow, I passed, but if I failed, who would have really cared besides myself and possibly my mother? Other than some ribbing by my friends, there was little attention or fanfare one way or the other.

St. Bonaventure sophomore guard Nelson Kaputo doesn’t have the luxury the other 99.4 percent of the student body has. As a member of a Division I men’s basketball team, his academic struggles have been broadcast, dissected and criticized since the news of his first-semester suspension first broke yesterday afternoon.

On the Bona Bandwagon, the same fan message board where the news of Kaputo’s suspension was first posted, anonymous posters started the rampant speculation about how the Toronto native could have become ineligible. Was he not going to class? Was he not doing his work? Was he missing tutoring sessions or study halls?

The general thesis of many of those forum posts, along with some emails I received from alumni, was that Kaputo was letting the team down by failing to take school seriously and stay on top of his work.

Unless his professors’ gradebooks or attendance sheets get leaked somehow, people are making hasty assumptions on zero evidence.

“Our players come to St. Bonaventure to get a degree and represent the university in competition,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said in Bona’s official statement. “We want to make sure Nelson is able to achieve both of those goals.”

At no point in that statement, or Schmidt’s comments to media members on Tuesday night, did anyone say Kaputo slacked off. No one indicated that he missed study hall, blew off his tutor or chose sleep over attendance.

Kaputo’s harshest critics also show a clear ignorance in many areas. Those who say the sophomore “never shows up to class” must not see him walking along with the rest of the fray of undergraduate students heading into Plassmann, the Murphy Professional Building, the Swan Business Center or any other place of academia on campus.

Some looked up Kaputo’s listed major, journalism and mass communication, and asked me, “How hard can it be to be eligible as a journalism major?” The underestimation of the program’s difficulty is a discussion for another day, but Kaputo isn’t a journalism major anymore; when school came up in conversation a couple weeks ago, he mentioned that he had switched to international studies. Sometimes minimal research has adverse effects.

No coach or player has ever questioned Kaputo’s effort or character, but Bona fans have launched an assault on his character for the past day. The program will never release specific information on his grades, so speculation has run wild on the behaviors and actions that led to him being sat down for the semester.

Is it possible that a college kid could simply be struggling academically? Since speculating has become the way to go, perhaps he is enrolled in a class where quizzes and exams are the only grades. A few ugly test scores, like the ones I received in that macroeconomics course a year ago, could bring the overall grade down in a hurry, with very few ways to bring it up. School doesn’t come easy for everyone, even with tutoring and office hours.

Would SBU observers rather have a setup like the one that has the University of North Carolina in hot water? Fake “paper classes” designed specifically to boost the grades of Tar Heel athletes were at the center of an investigation that shed the light on 18 years of academic fraud. At Bonaventure, athletes are required to take the same classes as their peers, and sitting a player down for non-conference action in hopes that he will become eligible for A-10 play is a wise course of action.

Bona Nation should pump the brakes on judging Nelson Kaputo with no information to go by. It could set a very poor and unfair precedent.

 

 

Men’s basketball: Kaputo transitions from Canadian prospect to Bona guard

(Photo courtesy of North Pole Hoops)

By Mike DeSanto @MJTD07

This year will be Nelson Kaputo’s first on the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team. Kaputo is a six-foot guard from Toronto, Ontario and is slated to play a majority of his time at point guard.

“He’s a pass first point guard,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt. “He’s got a really good IQ for the game, he knows the game (and) he knows how to play.”

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Kaputo transitions from Canadian prospect to Bona guard”

Column: Schmidt’s Kaputo comments show newcomer’s potential

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.