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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

New Kids on the Court: Freshmen thrive under Caputo

Sage Russell | Assistant Photo Editor
Head Coach Chris Caputo delivers some mid-game pointers.

Freshmen have flourished at GW — and it’s no rookie mistake.

Men’s basketball Head Coach Chris Caputo’s tenure since arriving to Foggy Bottom last year is perhaps best highlighted by the success of the rookies under his stewardship. Maximus Edwards nabbed the Atlantic 10’s Rookie of the Year honors last season after averaging 10.7 points per game, and redshirt freshmen forwards Garrett Johnson and Darren Buchanan Jr. have already won three A-10 Rookie of the Week awards this season.

“I think we do a good job of teaching guys how to be successful in terms of what are the things that translate from high school basketball to college basketball,” Caputo said.

The Revolutionaries’ roster this season is loaded with transfers and freshmen, giving many players the chance to star in collegiate contests for the first time in their careers. And freshmen haven’t backed down from the opportunity — the young guns account for four of the team’s top seven scorers, sparking a 6-2 start to the campaign.

The Revolutionaries swept the first three A-10 Rookie of the Week awards of the season, with Johnson taking home the award the first two weeks after a red-hot start to the season. Johnson’s season has been especially sweet considering the adversity he faced in the leadup to his collegiate debut — he missed a season at Princeton and subsequently dropped out after being diagnosed with a benign tumor in his hip, and it was unclear if he would ever get another shot to play basketball.

But play, he did.

Johnson garnered national headlines for his performance in his NCAA debut against Stonehill last month in which he scored 21 points and pulled down nine boards. But, while Johnson said his teammates have helped the squad gel while on the court, he said Caputo helped develop the spirit used to dazzle in his first competitive basketball games in two years.

“So even though we have a lot of inexperienced young guys, he gives us confidence to go play our game and do what we’re good at,” Johnson said.

And even with the eyes of the country on Foggy Bottom, Caputo wasn’t surprised to see Johnson lock in and continue to succeed.

“He’s a humble guy,” Caputo said. “I think he’s a serious guy in terms of his work ethic, and his mentality doesn’t get too high or too low for the most part. So I’ve been very, very happy with him and then his ability to sort of drown out the noise a little bit too.”

After Johnson won the honors two weeks in a row, Buchanan took home the rookie crown in the last full week of November, averaging 17.3 points per game at the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship in the Bahamas. Buchanan redshirted last year at Virginia Tech, leaving a Power 5 conference to play at Foggy Bottom, much like Edwards who redshirted his first season at Kansas State after becoming injured in the preseason.

“I feel good to win that award that shows how much work I’ve been putting in and just trusting what the coaches have been telling me throughout practice in the offseason,” Buchanan said. “And now to finally see it come to light.”

Buchanan may be in an intrateam competition with Johnson to see who can win more A-10 Rookie of the Week awards before the end of the season — or who might win A-10 Rookie of the Year — but he too recognizes how hard Johnson had to work to get back on the court.

“It’s a friendly competition with me and G right now,” Buchanan said. “But at the end of the day, I’m happy for him, because everybody knows G’s story and what he’s been through. So I tell him every day, ‘Bro just keep going.’”

For the Revolutionaries, youth runs deep. With more rookies than returners, true freshmen guards Trey Autry and Jacoi Hutchinson have stepped up early. The pair have each averaged more than 20 minutes per game so far, picking up valuable experience before the start of conference play.

“We are playing younger players,” said Caputo. “Trey and Jacoi are amongst the leaders in minutes for freshmen in the league.” 

And while the coaching staff provides the on-the-court tools, Buchanan credited more experienced players on the team with showing them how to adjust to college. Whether it be showing them what to eat or how to take care of their bodies, the veterans on the team have helped Buchanan adjust to the new environment as he enters his second year in college.

The younger guys on the squad have no shortage of mentorship, looking to veterans on the team like senior guard James Bishop IV for leadership. Buchanan said Bishop, Edwards and graduate transfers Antoine Smith Jr. and Babatunde Akingbola provide teaching moments to the rookies. Johnson was also quick to credit the veterans for their mentorship. 

So just having those guys around makes it a little easier on the freshmen and then for us to learn through our mistakes,” Buchanan said.

Conference play kicks off next month and the freshmen will have to continue their hot starts to knock off A-10 stalwarts like Dayton.

“We want to win the Atlantic 10,” Johnson said. “We know we’re good enough to do it. We just have to keep playing together and doing things the coaches stress to us.”

But, even if the year doesn’t go exactly according to plan, there’s always next year for the plethora of young men.

“We have a really promising future and if we stick together, I think we’ll do some special things here in the next couple years,” Johnson said.

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