City Desk

Georgetown Walk-On, One of Six Kids, Earns Scholarship for Senior Season

It’s a phenomenon that’s followed John Caprio since his first days at Georgetown—and it’s still not one his mother entirely understands. But whenever the seldom-used senior guard has taken the Verizon Center floor over the past four years, he’s never failed to elicit the biggest roar from the Hoya faithful.

At Georgetown’s “Midnight Madness” pep rally for Caprio's freshman year, a YouTube video shows the North Caldwell, N.J., native skipping around the court, waving his hands to pump up the crowd and then putting an “I-can’t-hear-you” hand to his ear. The fans, meeting Caprio for the first time, cheer wildly. Three years later, they haven’t stopped.

Unfortunately for Caprio, though, fans don’t decide playing time. Nor, just as importantly in his case, who gets a scholarship.

The walk-on's parents felt he deserved the recognition, as any parent would. “We always knew he was good enough,” Peggy Caprio tells City Desk. And with John the third of six children, they also would have appreciated the financial boost that a scholarship would bring. Finally, in August—after three years of hoping, three years of waiting—the Caprios got just that.

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“I think it’s big,” John says. “Especially for them.”

NCAA men’s basketball rules allow a maximum of 13 scholarships for any given Division I roster. In Georgetown's case, until August, Caprio remained on the outside.

For three years, however, Caprio showed up to practice every day just the same, playing a key role on the Hoyas’ scout team. He would go toe-to-toe with the starters and top bench players, doing everything he could to prepare the stars to face Georgetown’s next Big East or NCAA tournament opponent.

Although Caprio frequently pestered head coach John Thompson III, his skills weren’t deemed quite enough to merit the full ride most of his teammates enjoyed.

“He’s worked so hard, and walk-on is a tough position to be in,” says senior forward Nate Lubick, a starter and four-year teammate of Caprio’s. “You’re putting in all the same hours, all the same work as all of us, but you’re usually not playing that much.”

In Caprio’s case, that meant six total minutes of game-time his freshman year, 23 as a sophomore, and 32 as a junior. Meanwhile, Peggy and Andy Caprio paid Georgetown’s hefty tuition.

At one point, the Caprios say, they were paying for the college educations of John and three of his siblings at once. “My parents nudged me to think about [the scholarship] more,” Caprio says, laughing. “Honestly, I never really thought it would actually happen. And it has.”

But despite all his lobbying efforts, the way in which Caprio ultimately landed the scholarship was fairly anticlimactic: “It happened,” is how Thompson describes it.

While taking classes on campus this summer, Caprio kept track of Thompson’s recruiting efforts. The program had only brought in one player for the incoming class of 2017; one scholarship slot, Caprio knew, remained. Before he headed home for a break in August, then, he decided to make his case to his coach one last time.

On the way back to D.C. two weeks later, stuck in a traffic jam with his mom and younger brother, Caprio heard from Thompson. It wasn’t a formal call—just a text. But the Hoyas’ open spot was his.

“I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high, obviously, because that’s a pretty big thing to get your hopes up for—and then if it didn’t happen, that would kinda suck,” Caprio says.

The Caprio lovefest since then has been as strong as ever: In mid-November, while the Hoyas were in Puerto Rico for an early-season tournament, the fans rained their congratulations down upon Georgetown’s newest scholarship player from the stands.

Caprio was surprised that being on scholarship doesn’t feel any different, but the guard’s playing numbers tell of a change nevertheless. Through Georgetown’s eight games so far this season, he’s tallied six appearances, even recording two blocks and tying a career high of four points in a 70-49 win over Lipscomb.

“You kind of think of walk-ons, and usually they’re little guys who can shoot. Cap’s not a typical walk-on,” Lubick says of the 6-foot-6 Caprio. “He’s probably one of the strongest guys on our team in terms of the stuff up in the weight room; he’s an unbelievable rebounder; he’s making kind of ‘wow’ crossover moves and plays like that at the rim. He does a lot for us in practice, and when we’re preparing for teams, Cap’s really big on our scout team.”

“He’s someone that quite honestly, because he’s a senior, has a good feel for what he’s doing,” says Thompson. “When I put him in the game this year, everyone who’s watching the game doesn’t look at him and go, ‘Oh, there’s that walk-on.’ He’s someone that’s earned the scholarship and earned the minutes that he’s going to get this year.”

The Caprios, of course, had believed that for quite some time. And now that their own favorite player has realized his lofty goal, the entire family is reaping the benefits.

“John’s thrilled,” mom Peggy says. “I tell people that it’s an example of how hard work can pay off.”

Photo courtesy Web Leslie/The Hoya

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