When men’s basketball Head Coach Chris Caputo blows the whistle at the end of practice, the team jogs into a huddle at the Smith Center’s half-court logo, where nodding heads and heaving chests signal the end of a productive workout.
But standing out from the bunch, one player, standing at 6’8″ inches with No. 4 printed on the back of his practice jersey, hunches over the group with his arms draped over his teammates in a supportive embrace. Senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. doesn’t hide his emotions around his team, whether he’s chirping at them following a rough foul or high-fiving them at the sound of Caputo’s whistle.
“I was being more emotional at this practice, but it goes for all the practices, making sure I’m emotional, making sure the team, the coaches there know that I’m invested in what we’re doing, so they can fall behind me,” he said.
Lindo is entering his last season of college basketball with a sense of responsibility as a team leader with four years in the NCAA already under his belt and a team looking to capitalize on a new coaching staff with a promising outlook for the program’s future. Lindo led the team with 286 rebounds last season, registering 7.8 boards per game, the second-highest rate in the A-10.
“I’m one of the most experienced players on this team, so just making sure I’m leading these young guys, even the guys I’ve been with for a few years, leading them and stuff like that, just making sure we’re all cohesive and all together,” he said.
The new season will mark Lindo’s second as a senior on the team, granted an extra year of eligibility in the NCAA, alongside all other Division I athletes who lost out on a spring season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He will ride out his final season at GW under the fresh leadership of Caputo, who has injected life back into the program after officials fired former Head Coach Jamion Christian in March and lost two of its star players who transferred in the following month. Caputo served as the associate head coach at Miami and helped push the team to an Elite Eight appearance earlier this year under Jim Larrañaga, Miami’s head coach since 2011 who gained national attention for leading George Mason on a Cinderella run to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in 2006.
Lindo said the coaching staff has held the team accountable on the court during the off-season, placing a major emphasis on communication leading up to the start of the season.
“We’re just trying to listen to everything our new coach, Coach Caputo, tells us to do,” Lindo said. “He’s coming from a winning program with Coach Larrañaga from Miami and Miami being in the Elite Eight, so he brings a lot of experience, a lot of winning to the program. So we’re just going to try to do our best to follow what he says, follow what the assistant coaches say and just do our best this season, trying to upset a lot of people.”
Lindo said the team has focused on talking more during its practices, with players being more vocal about their relative position on the court to build trust with one another as plays develop on the court. In his interview with The Hatchet last month, he said the team’s communication was “not at its best,” but with a few weeks left before the start of the season, he expressed optimism that the players would continue to improve heading into the season opener.
“We got new coaches, we got a few new players, so we’re still getting adjusted to what the coaching staff wants from us, compared to last year,” he said. “And so it’s coming along, but it’s definitely getting better each day.”
Lindo said his “biggest focus” lies on the Atlantic 10 Championship, where Massachusetts eliminated the Colonials in the second round last season shortly before the ensuing fallout of Christian’s firing and the transfers of guards Joe Bamisile and Brayon Freeman. He said Caputo “knows what’s best” for the team, so players need to maintain their trust in his decision-making if they want the best odds at staging a competitive run in the post-season.
“That’s where your name gets out there the most, obviously, what you do in the season, but in the playoffs, tournament time is where all the lights are on,” he said. “So personally that’s where I want to excel at.”
To grow his own game as one of the team’s projected starters, Lindo is working to fine-tune his jump shot and cut down on fouls, a category he led the team in with 80 fouls last season, averaging nearly three per game. He said showing his hands to keep them visible to the referees at all times during the game will help keep him out of trouble and on the court to avoid early exits by way of fouling out.
Off the court, Lindo said he and the rest of men’s basketball can be found in South Hall, where a majority of the team lives to bond in preparation for the season. From sharing space in each other’s living rooms to traversing to the new dining hall in Thurston Hall, Lindo said the team has taken advantage of the off-season to talk about all things, basketball or not.
And between South, Thurston or Smith, Lindo said despite his tall stature, fans should greet him along the way.
“I’m a nice guy,” Lindo said. “I may look tall and intimidating, but I’m a nice guy. I’m a friendly giant. So if you guys see me on the street, just talk to me.”
This article appeared in the November 7, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.