Whether it’s protecting the paint or closing out on perimeter shots, men’s basketball is making defense central to the team’s identity.
Newly hired Head Coach Chris Caputo said the team is looking to protect the perimeter, prevent shots in the paint and limit the number of fouls that lead to free throws as the team tries to bolster its defense. He said with the addition of two new guards – quick and agile graduate student E.J. Clark and 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman Max Edwards – the team will form a tougher defensive wall closer to the paint, with both guards providing more depth to the guard position, which he hopes will translate to higher defensive intensity.
“Trying to protect the paint a little bit better, now that sometimes comes with giving up threes, but you try to play inside out, take away the inside first and then the rim,” Caputo said. “Inside first and then the 3-point line, but you certainly know that if you’re giving up a lot of shots at the rim, you’re going to foul, you’re going to give up a high percentage of fouls. So for us, the emphasis has been on trying to protect the basketball.”
Defense was the Colonials’ weak point last season – GW’s defense ranked 12th out of 14 teams in the Atlantic 10 last year after giving up 72.8 points per game. During the A-10 Championship tournament, the Colonials struggled to stifle their opponents’ scoring runs, especially inside the paint.
The Colonials finished the season with a 12-18 A-10 record and went 1-3 in the A-10 Championship, marking an improvement from the 2020-21 season, when the team only managed a 5-12 record and a second-round conference tournament exit.
Sports Illustrated’s pre-season A-10 poll picked the Colonials to finish in 11th last season, but they ended up as the seventh seed at the A-10 tournament, placing four spots higher than any of the past five seasons.
During his time as the associate head coach at Miami, Caputo focused on a “pesky scramble defense” that looked to interrupt opponents’ offensive rhythm and force key turnovers to boost offensive chances. The Miami team used this defensive style last season to great success, reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.
“I think we want to play in a way that is very free flowing,” Caputo said. “We want to take advantage of our strengths, but really want to share the ball, like the idea that we are a program that is going to play selflessly, it’s very important to me. When you play that way, it attracts people to your program.”
Caputo said keeping the players in “great” physical shape and holding them responsible for their defensive assignments will be vital to keeping the team accountable.
“We’ve really spent a lot of time in the last two months on our defense since school started trying to build out a defensive identity and habits defensively,” Caputo said. “Ultimately, getting in great shape and being held accountable to your discipline defensively is so important, and so we’re going to try to take steps in the right direction there. Sometimes, to be a good defensive team, you have to have good defenders, but what we will strive to do is to make it important to the guys in the program.”
Senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. said the team has learned to talk more on the court to improve communication on defense and build trust between players, vocalizing where they each need to be to guard the ball.
“As a team, just make sure we’re all just cohesive,” Lindo said. “And listen to what Coach Caputo says because he knows what’s best for us. So we have to trust what he says so we can have the best season we can have.”
Jarrod Wardwell and Nuria Diaz contributed reporting.
This article appeared in the November 7, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.