The news of Bobby Capobianco’s transfer Friday afternoon probably came as a surprise to few familiar with the Indiana program.
An erstwhile member of Tom Crean’s first big recruiting class, Capobianco’s was always a future of necessary development. While the Loveland, Ohio, certainly wasn’t unheralded coming out of high school – he had offers from West Virginia and Marquette as well as IU – it was widely acknowledged that he would need to improve his game to fit in at the Big Ten level.
At times during his freshman season, Capobianco was a breath of fresh air. He was as tough as any post player on the team, averaging nearly 12 minutes and 2.6 rebounds per game, and he added depth at a position where it was sorely needed.
An offseason of conditioning and polish, it seemed, would do Capobianco well. Entering his sophomore year, he might even be in a position to push further into the playing time of fellow big men Derek Elston and Tom Pritchard.
That scenario never played out. Instead, Capobianco’s minutes were cut almost in half last season. While he seemed slimmer and stronger, the 6-foot-9 forward too often seemed behind the pace and speed of the Big Ten. He averaged 10.7 fouls per 40 minutes, and struggled to provide the same meaningful bench presence that he had a year prior.
With Cody Zeller on his way to Bloomington in the fall, Capobianco’s playing time looked to take an even greater hit. Both Zeller and now-junior forward Derek Elston offer more versatility on offense than Capobianco, and Zeller projects to, at very least, be in the mix for a starting spot from the moment he sets foot on campus.
That said, the post has been a major concern depth-wise in all three of Tom Crean’s years in Bloomington. Replacing Capobianco with Zeller is, on paper, an upgrade, but Capobianco brought experience and, perhaps more importantly, strength that Zeller will not immediately have.
Tom Pritchard (6.4 fouls per 40 minutes last season) and Elston (5.7 fouls per 40 minutes last season) will need to be able to play more efficiently on defense.
Pritchard in particular seemed to make strides on that end of the floor last year. His experience and strength inside will be vital in creating a good balance with Zeller, who can play facing or with his back to the basket.
Surely by now, most Indiana fans are aware of the looming scholarship crunch. Even with Capobianco’s departure, Indiana is still one scholarship heavy for next season.
The Hoosiers can now sign all five of its 2012 commitments, as the Big Ten allows teams to oversign by one, but at least one more spot in the program will need to be cleared if all five of those recruits are coming to campus in a year’s time.
Should Indiana add another recruit to that class, such as 247 Sports/PrepStars.com top-20 prospects Gary Harris or Mitch McGary, then it will again be two commitments over its scholarship allowance, and one past the oversign limit.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR CAPOBIANCO?
Right now, it’s hard to say.
The statement from the program says he is enrolled in summer classes, which he will complete before transferring.
While he’s undoubtedly struggled at Indiana, it’s wildly unfair to paint Capobianco too harshly. He was one of Crean’s first commitments, and certainly one of the most enthusiastic. On the first day of his November signing period, Capobianco faxed in his signed letter of intent before anyone else in the class.
Capobianco was always one of the most honest players on the team. In interviews, he nearly always spoke frankly, whatever the situation or the line of questioning.
Transferring now will allow Capobianco to retain two years of eligibility and a redshirt year, should he transfer to another Division I school. His size, strength and experience in the Big Ten ought to make him a valuable asset wherever he ends up.
QUOTES FROM COACH CREAN, CAPOBIANCO
“Bobby has decided to go for a fresh start and transfer to a school where he can have three years to play two. He has indicated he would like the opportunity to find a program where he can get more playing time and continue his education.
“We will help him accomplish this move in any way that we can and we all really want to see Bobby be successful. My hope is that he finds a school like Indiana, that puts a prominent emphasis in academics as it does in basketball, as he has done an excellent job here in the classroom.
“He will be an asset to whatever program he chooses and we wish him the best as he moves to this next stage in life.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time here at Indiana, but I want to look for an opportunity to further my basketball and academic career at another institution. I value the experience that I have had here and appreciate everything the coaches and basketball staff have done for me.
“I am looking forward to this new chapter, and will always have very strong feelings for my teammates, coaches and everyone associated with IU.”
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