Analysis: It just did not work out for Bobby Capobianco

I believe it was Jim Murray who once wrote that spring was when the taxes come due and anyone can win the pennant. It’s a terrific phrase, the kind that made Murray one of the better guys ever to sit at a typewriter/keyboard and write about sports.

It sticks in my mind at the moment because Bobby Capobianco, the first underclassmen to commit to Tom Crean, announced he will transfer from Indiana and resume his college basketball career elsewhere.

The announcement seemed like an inevitability — it was difficult to imagine anyone with any degree of pride signing up for two more years of trying to crack the rotation. That was likely Capobianco’s fate – his foul rate was 10.7 per 40 minutes of play as a sophomore, worst in the Big Ten by 2.5 fouls – and was always going to keep him from extended minutes.

But on signing day, college basketball’s version of spring, you rarely see this coming down the track. Sure Capobianco was the least-heralded member of the 2009 recruiting class (the only one not in the top-150). But he was a big guy, listed at 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, and he wanted to be a Hoosier – going so far as to send his letter of intent in at 7:01 a.m. on the first day of the signing period.

Check out the comments after he committed to Indiana. You’ll find some familiar names, and the discussion is almost unanimously positive: Capobianco was hailed as the kind of big guy Indiana had lacked in recent seasons, a real banger who would hold up in the Big Ten.

What we didn’t know, or didn’t yet see, is that Capobianco would always struggle with the speed of the Big Ten. His previously mentioned foul rate was one of being a step slow, but also earnestly trying to overcome it. He would move just slightly to better his screen, and the whistle would blow. He would get beat in the post and try to use his hands to bail him out; again, a blown whistle. Capobianco earning multiple foul calls within seconds of each other became too common, and coach Tom Crean used him less and less as the season went on.

Suddenly it no longer matters that Capobianco remains Indiana’s largest individual, at 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, and perhaps the strongest. It no longer matters that the 5 position remains a weakness for Indiana, and strength is not the first attribute mentioned for Cody Zeller, Hanner Perea or Peter Jurkin.

It no longer matters that Capobianco was one of the first guys to buy in for the rebuilding project, and was a model citizen and student off the court. This was about basketball, plain and simple.

Capobianco will find a home at a mid-major, and he’ll do well; the game will slow down for him, especially in comparison to the Big Ten, and his size will be an even-greater asset. And Indiana knows it can sign all five of the verbal commitments in the class of 2012 come November, which is not insignificant.

I don’t believe this is a story of unfulfilled promises, as so many transfer stories are. This was a simple case of a young man doing what he could, but it just not being enough. There’s nothing wrong with that, no matter the season.

(Photo: Chris Howell | Herald-Times)


  1. Really, really well written commentary. Thanks (Loved the reference to Jim Murray…he and Hammel were the best).

  2. I really appreciate the effort and attitude that Bobby always displayed. Great kid. Sorry it didn’t work out. Hope nothing but the best for him.

  3. Wishing Bobby nothing but the best. From what we saw he seems a class kid.

    Good luck Bobby.

  4. I think you will find that Cody and Hanner are plenty strong and more than capable of playing at the speed of the Big 19.

  5. I disagree that Bobby will find basketball at a mid-major much easier, and that he will do well. If he goes to a school in his native Ohio, a MAC school like Bowling Green or Ohio, he will find it tough to play 20 minutes a game because that level of basketball is still high-quality, fast, and physical. Bobby’s problems are not confined to his lack of speed or inability to adjust to the Big Ten; the Big Ten is a slow-down, grind it out type of league where guys like him have thrived before. His basic problems are due to his lack of awareness on the court, below-average athleticism for his size, and lack of post moves. His only field goals ended up being put-backs because he is unable to score any other way in this conference, and I just can’t see him being able to do much more at a mid-major level that has been bolstered by an influx of better athletes and coaches.
    It was great that Bobby helped pave the way for Crean’s recruiting at IU, but I think he was overrated based on his size and shooting ability that he was never able to show at IU. Maybe if he can gain back some confidence he can surprise, but I just don’t think he will make leaps and bounds. Good luck to him, despite what I think.

  6. Guess I’m in the minority camp, but I liked the kid(beyond his great attitude, academic example, and positive motivation from the bench)..I think his game was hampered and much of his potential unrealized(same could be said for Elston) because of backcourt inadequacies and injuries. Crean has traded in loyalty for something better coming down the pike. I guess it’s just the nature of college sports today. Players(one-and-done’s) have no loyalty to school and coaches are adopting strategies/quick-fixes to offset the pressures the talent-snatchers from the NBA. Who has the luxury anymore to develop talent over the course of four years? I think Capo may surprise and still have a pretty decent basketball career. I wouldn’t assume a major program wouldn’t like him on their roster. He’s a big body to put in the boxes and he’ll never disappoint in his effort coming off the bench…Fouls to give aint always such a bad thing. When Capo first came to IU, I thought he showed a nice shooting touch(maybe I was just comparing to Pritch’s brick tosses). What happened to Capo’s touch? For that matter, what happened to Elston’s touch? Before we signed the savior, Zeller, I remember how many were saying the struggles of Capo and Elston were the result of a coaching staff that didn’t know how to teach bigs…Am I bringing up discussions that now find better home swept under rug? Do any bloggers of Scoop that have been around these parts for more than six months also remember those types of comments? Land a top recruit and suddenly the whole problem is deflected back to the slow shoelace-tripper(s) that never should have been wearing the Cream and Crimson from the start. I don’t remember Tsao around these parts six months ago..Maybe he was on Kentucky blogs back then..Anyway, what a good choice Capo was for the day our low morale two years ago..And now what inadequate curbside garbage our happier state of affairs..I can live with tough decisions, taking the emotions out of the equation, when they make sense. And if I wanted a heartless one that made sense for IU, I would have been far more comfortable cutting Jones(a.k.a. King Selfish Turnover) before Capo. The addition of Remy Abell is plenty a replacement at the point for the tunnel vision a one-on-one player that did zero to involve our young forwards into the offense.

    Good luck Capo.

  7. Question: Does Crean know how to develop good players or is that not the IU Way? Don’t get defensive – I’m just asking.

  8. I wonder that very thing. I have yet to see a player really advance much in the Tom Crean era. I really like Crean and love Indiana basketball. But V.J. , T.P. , D.E. not much growth.

  9. brianP, there’s an old cliche’ that says, “You can’t teach fast.” Only time will tell if he underachieved or if he reached his potential.

  10. I think it’s interesting that everyone assumes, without a hint of confirmation, that Bobby was shown the door. Maybe he was, but there is absolutely nothing solid to indicate that was the case. It’s just what everyone assumes. If I was Bobby, I’d be pretty insulted by this thread. There is an outside chance that, just maybe, this young man is able to make some determination as to what is best for him.
    This is a good example of how rumors get started. Just like ‘Sheehy is unhappy.’

  11. …nor much talent…

    The reason Capo was on the floor practicing fouling was because TP and DE were on the bench after their turns on the floor practicing fouling. In many cases their benefactor for their collection of fouls was the D of VJ. I sincerely hope since we will have to suffer through another year of his lack of defensive concern that he will be relegated to as few of minutes as Capo enjoyed. Thanks BC for the concern and effort.

  12. Still wish we could bring in a big this spring who knows not how to foul. I hate to watch another year or TP and DE fouling out against Sullinger in about 5 minuted each.

  13. Clarion-

    Excellent observations.

    I remember games that Capo came in and played pretty solid minutes against some of the Big 10’s top post players. I also believe that some of the premier players in the conference get the benefit of the ticky-tack calls. Let’s hope Cody gets some of the same benefit the referee’s whistle. Unfortunately, I won’t hold my breath. We have five banners and I don’t give a damn how long it’s been since they were hoisted, the refs still blow the “Because it’s Indiana” whistle. Hugh’s statistic regarding Capo’s fouling is what it is, but you can’t ignore what was happening on defense down low when we had guards that just weren’t up to snuff when it came to speed on the floor and denying easy entry passes. With the exception of Hulls, Brett Finkelmeier played better in-your-face defense two years ago than what our experienced guards gave last year. Maybe Capo wasn’t pushed out the door…Then again, what would anyone do if they’re given the gentle ultimatum of leave now or ride pine for two years. If this was purely a scholarship/numbers thing where room on the future roster needed to be made, then I’ll stick to what I said above..It would have been better for the team to show a certain guard the pine splinters of a gentle ultimatum rather than Capo. I would have never redshirted ‘Fink’ his senior year. Remember that a defensive foul stops play. It sometimes puts a kid at the line and can result in points for your opponent. Selfish play at your point guard position takes everyone on the floor out of the offense(it costs you in player development and when the turnover comes it costs you double on the scoreboard…no points for you..points for the other guy)…When cumbersome “bangers” don’t get involved on the offensive end, its not uncommon to see it add up to frustration fouls at the other end of the court. Can’t be a lot of fun watching the coach’s pet ignore you when he’s going one-on-one, subsequently turn the ball over, and then you get a tail view shot of the JaJuan Johnsons of the Big 10 sprinting down the floor as you run your guts out in pursuit to get back on defense. If you don’t have a point guard that can protect the ball, there will be fouling. Guys get frustrated..Hoosiers get tired..hands start grabbing. If I’m the uninvolved 250 lb. center on the court watching my selfish teammate given a free pass no matter the mistakes, I think I would do whatever possible to get back to the bench. Foul or run on a track team for the Turnover King? So maybe Chet’s right…This was totally Capo’s choice for a better life.

  14. Well it has been over a decade since Knight left. After a circus decade now Crean is approaching the 5 year or half a decade time line. It will be here in the not to distant future. The positive is that a crystal ball of future recruits is forseen. The big question is will the crystal ball break. Crean has bought a few years as did Weiss at Notre Dame among others. Will individual players develop skills that will produce a winning team image (for IU that means 25 to 30 plus wins a season given the number of games played now and all the cupcakes scheduled). They have to be a force in tournaments. So far nothing has happened and IU’s benchmark is at 15 wins and no presence of anything. How good will some of these high school recruits be as IU players on the big ten college level? Yes you need talent to start out with. That talent still has to be developed unless you are one of the elite rare few. Then, all that talent has to equal a highly talented image of a team. We will see. Then a decade and a half will have come and gone…. Actually, over two decades since IU was a real force.

  15. I agree with Ike as far as mid-major basketball. It can be just as fast and physical as the BIG Ten and other major schools. Xavier, VCU (which made it to the final 4) and others are mid majors and they can complete and be very competitive. I think Capobianco will find a new team to play on but he is going to have to work on other aspects of his game. I wish him the best.

  16. MicMax and brianP, There is NO question that Jordan Hulls had tremendous improvement from year 1 to year 2 under Coach Crean. Nor is there any question that Christian Watford had good improvement from year 1 to year 2, but he was “good” in year 1. There is also no question that Danny Moore has seriously improved his game in each of his 3 years, but he will never be All Big 10. I agree that Elston needs to show great improvement this next season, but he is a very talented player. So such improvement is certainly possible. Mo Creek has suffered two very serious injuries-not much a Coach can do about that. That covers Coach Crean’s first real recruiting class in 2009. I expect great improvement from Oladipo and Sheehey this next season. Time will tell.

    A very well written article Hugh!

  17. Michel participating in NBA Draft combine by Dustin Dopirak | Monday, May 2, 2011 – 5:31 pm EDT

    Rivers playing at Portsmouth Invitational by Dustin Dopirak | Monday, April 4, 2011 – 11:51 am EDT

    Speaking of staying committed to questionable talent…Is there any such thing in journalism known as a follow-up/update anymore?

    It’s funny how one man’s fate so easily affects another. Do you think Remy Abell is ever in a Hoosier uniform if the NCAA doesn’t decide to make Guy ineligible? Is coach McClain ever sitting next to Crean without the recruitment of Guy-Marc Michel? Is Dane Fife coaching at MSU without Guy’s recruitment that now leaves Crean still committed to questionable coaching talent? Does Cody still come to IU if Guy wasn’t made immediately irrelevant on our roster? And look at how Crean remained committed to Jeremiah Rivers through his difficulties at the game. I still take Capo in a free-throw and 3-pt shooting contest over Jeremiah. Where do you put your money in a game of horse between Capo and Rivers? Crean stays committed to Jeremiah and at the end of the day he still loses out on the main prize when Austin goes to Duke. I never liked the Celtics. I’m glad LeBron and Dwyane Wade mopped the little green leprechauns off the floor. Speaking of leprechauns and lucky charms….Is Crean ever having the chance to say “Because it’s Indiana” without Wade? Maybe we get a bit too caught up in claiming “talent” is the driving force why one man sits on thrown and another walks streets alone. If you have no benefit a little loyalty and patience thrown your direction, maybe it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of good old-fashioned luck from that sprout of clover grown a fourth leaf you tucked away as child between the pages of a thick book of fate.

  18. I suggest CTC spend less time readind and quoting John hagee and Joyce Meyer ( who quote the Bible to build their empires )and focus on developing players which he has failed miserably. maybe he should join them and IU can get a real coach. Bobby C. got the shaft due CTC’s lousy coaching as mentioned above by others. Elston has received similar treatment.

  19. The collegiate development of T.Diener, J.McNeal, D.Wade and S.Novak dispel that falsehood without pause.

  20. Capo never should have received a scholarship to begin with in my opinion, just like Bawa and Abell.
    I keep hearing the 2012 class is going to be so great…. but what I am seeing is that they can’t win a single AAU tourament, and Jurkin who was never very talented to begin with, cannot stay healthy.

  21. I don’t necessarily agree that Crean doesn’t know how to develop talent. I think he has a harder time making sound decisions when it comes to favorites in terms of personality and other faith/ideological values. From what I hear his preachings being spread on his Twitter account, maybe the guys he sticks with through thick and thin he perceives to be more evangelical or new testament….Born again Hoosiers?

    A 2003 Gallup poll reported that “Forty-one percent of Americans say they are ‘born-again'”. “The percentage of whites who are born-again and identify as Republicans is 48%, compared with only 12% of born-again blacks. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

    I don’t agree with Knight..I like the choice of Remy Abell to help us out at point guard..I don’t know if he’s a Christian, or a street thug that never saw the inside of a church, but it sure looks like he’s a fine basketball talent. Was Bob Knight a religous man or simply a basketball god?

  22. Chet, you must admit that there had to be some substance to the rumor if Dustin made a call to his former coach. I never got back with you last week and sorry about that…death in the family, tough week. Even if you walked on at IU, it was a Varsity sport and absolutely no person can take that experience away from you. Thanks for sharing!

  23. IU should fire Crean, get rid of all the players, and bring in a coach who will only take 5 star players that will agree to remain for 4 years. Steve Mc Brian

  24. J Pat, Thank you. I have been blessed to receive a few opportunities in my life to do some things that not everyone gets a chance to do. I have always tried to make the most of those opportunities.

  25. Jurkin should be sent to prep school for sure at this poitn. He has missed a whole year of basketball and it sounds like he is not even going to play this summer.As far as BC is was clear from day one he was not cut out for big ten ball. We still have several of those guys on the team now as well.

  26. I just don’t understand the paternalism of anyone that assumes that a transferring player was forced out by the coach. And I don’t understand why some express such sympathy to the transferring player, implying that the player is getting a bad deal? It’s irrational! He’s not being exiled and IU is not the only good school in America.

    These young men are 17 or 18 (at most) when they decide what school they’re going to attend. When they’re 20, the world looks a lot different, prompting some to make a change. If you want to play, why would you ever stay at a school where its obvious that your playing time is going to be severely limited, especially when you know you can be a starter at another school?

    If Bobby is as smart as he seems to be, he’ll transfer where he can get the best possible education, taking three years to finish his degree, at a school that gives him a chance to be a starter. He’s not going to have a carer in the NBA, so he should have as much fun as possible playing out his eligibility while getting a quality degree. Why does that scenario require sympathy or generate suspicions about the coach’s motives?

  27. That should be the natural assumption. The other scenario is insulting to Bobby.

  28. Indiana’s schedule was mostly that of a mid major!

    My advice. Pick the best school academically regardless of division and set yourself up for a good career-post college bball.

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