Saturday, December 6, 2014

No Offer, No Problem for Iona Prep's Capuano

When in need of quick motivation, Iona Prep's Tom Capuano doesn't need to blast ear-shattering music or thumb through classic Vince Lombardi speeches.

The 5-foot-11 senior off guard has interest from Harvard to Brown to Bucknell, albeit no Division-I scholarship is on the table yet.

Capuano erupted with a 41-point performance against Xpressions Elite on the AAU circuit this past off-season, catching the hot hand before college coaches all across the Eastern Seaboard.

He applied a thorough, straitjacket-esque clamp down job on George Washington-bound guard Jordan Roland during the 2014 BCANY summer games.

Using increased strength, Capuano forced the prolific scoring Roland off screens while inducing several errant, off-balanced shots.

Still--plenty of interest but no official Division-1 offer.

"Every day I'm working as hard as I can simply because of that," said the football-bodied Capuano, who holds a 93 GPA and has worked religiously at becoming a more adept ball handler.

"I'm really not concerned about it. I know I'm going to get one eventually. It's still very early."

During Iona Prep's 74-57 trouncing of Boys & Girls on Saturday, understanding why programs have hesitated to heap an offer was difficult.

The Hastings native performed as a surefire scholarship player, contributing in categories all across the stat sheet.

He poured in a game-best 31 points, hunting for his shot and creating off the dribble.

 Capuano unfurled a step back jumper during the second half.

He snaked through seams, sidestepped traffic on hard drives and finished in the open court, providing an efficient account of his capabilities.

"The first thing that comes to mind is (Capuano's) finishing ability," said Gaels junior point guard Ty Jerome, who scored 17 points, doled out seven assists, and found Capuano for open treys and in the run-and-gun game.

"Tommy can really finish on anyone. Today, we had success getting into the defense and making extra passes."

While the rain pelted the pavement outside, the Gaels erupted with a hailstorm of 3-pointers inside their home court.

Notre Dame-signee Matt Ryan sparked the perimeter onslaught in the first half and finished with 16 points and four treys.

The cerebral Jerome, who committed to Virginia this summer, bagged back-to-back 3-pointers from the left corner, swelling Iona Prep's lead to 48-25.

 Jerome drilled a team-best five 3-pointers.

 Capuano had three, including a pair as the Gaels took a wave of momentum into halftime.

Capuano has the option of doing a post-graduate year, as several programs without an available scholarship have suggested.

He said he's taking everything one step at a time. Team aspirations, as Capuano reinforced, currently outweigh future plans.

"We have a lot of pressure entering this season and everyone wants to get us," Capuano said.

"That only motivates us more. We can't take a game off, we've got to just keep going at them and not step back. Today, we really wanted to give (Boys & Girls) defensive pressure and find the shooters. The focus was on finding whoever was hot and we were able to do that."

Partly at Ryan's emergence as the area's richest recruit since Mount Vernon product Jabarie Hinds (West Virginia/UMass) and Jerome's summer garnering national headlines while spearheading New Heights AAU during crunch time, Iona Prep has evoked animosity across the city.

The Gaels have heard the murmurs. They know everyone is looking to expose and humble them with a riveting upset.

With the pressure mounting and the scholarships gained by Jerome and Ryan, the Gaels know the only easy day was yesterday.

"We love it," Jerome said.

 "We love getting every team's best shot at us. There's a lot of attention on us and we know it brings out the best in our opponents and forces us to work harder every week."

How about the attention the radiant triumvirate of Ryan, Jerome and Capuano has garnered?

"Coach Vic (Quirolo) stresses continuity and really has emphasized that everyone needs to play their part this season," Jerome said.

"Pat Fleming would be a first option on a lot of teams throughout the area."

Fleming chipped in with six boards and was a dependable source defensively, as the Gaels kept Boys & Girls out of the driving lanes.

Capuano's work ethic has only spiked. Shooting 500-600 jump shots both after practice and at Hastings' Cochrane Gynasium on the weekends, he's worked at bettering all facets of his game.

"Definitely, my strength has improved," Capuano said.

"My ball handling is there. It's all going to come together and hopefully it stays like that the whole season."

Like his teammates, Capuano knows this squad has a price on its head.

The Gaels face All Hallows, which pulled off an upset of Bishop Loughlin this week, on Tuesday.