Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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First-year pair pays dividends (Men’s basketball)

Last spring, after both players had committed to play for Northwestern, Michael Thompson invited fellow Chicago-area recruit Mike Capocci to play ball at Loyola Park, the court where he earned the nickname “Juice” five years before.

“They play rough there,” Thompson said. “I wanted to show him city basketball, not the suburban type he’s used to.”

Even though both players knew each other from AAU tournaments, they were always on opposing teams.

Thompson’s enthusiasm for playing with his former rival increased from the moment Capocci tried to sell him on the Wildcats.

“The coaching staff told me to talk to him and see what I could do to get him to commit,” Capocci said. “I don’t know how much of an impact I had on him, but it was an opportunity to play Big Ten basketball with another guy from the area.”

It wasn’t until after they had both signed with NU that they played with each other, at Loyola Park and when Capocci joined Thompson’s AAU team, the Rising Stars.

“We played in a tournament and we ended up winning,” Thompson said. “We were a great 1-2 punch and that’s something we thought about working on at Northwestern.”

Capocci, the 9th-ranked prospect in Illinois according to Chicagohoops.com, and Thompson, ranked 13th, were looking at schools as diverse as Stanford and Oklahoma State.

Their decision to stay local has helped the Cats so far. That breakthrough may help the Cats get more top local prospects in the future.

NU coach Bill Carmody said luring local recruits on the level of Capocci and Thompson has been a long time coming.

“It was a lot tougher and took a lot longer than I thought it would be to get there,” he said.

Junior guard Craig Moore said any time a team can grab recruits that have played with each other prior to playing college basketball, it will be a boon to the program.

“It’s good when recruits know of each other,” he said. “Hopefully they like each other too, and as long as they don’t go home every weekend, I think it is a good thing.”

Thompson has seen more playing time than Capocci this season, due to his hard work and an opening in the starting lineup at point guard.

This season he is averaging 12.8 points and 5.1 assists in 36.1 minutes per game.

“Juice is much more aware of what coach wants on the court,” Moore said, “who do we need to get the ball to and things like that. He’s got to be coach on the floor.”

Capocci’s minutes have been fewer, but his ability to get rebounds and give the Cats a presence down low is a reason he has been getting playing time over more experienced forwards.

Capocci, who started NU’s first four games, is averaging 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in 13.6 minutes per game this season.

Even though the talent level is much higher in the Big Ten than he faced last season, he said the acclimation to collegiate play has been relatively smooth.

“It’s definitely a different atmosphere, more professional,” Capocci said. “In the Big Ten if you don’t do what you need to do every game, you can’t be successful.”

While he has been working hard to improve different facets of his game, Capocci still lacks one thing his teammate from Lincoln Park has.

“No, I don’t have a nickname and I don’t think I’m going to get one,” he said.

Reach Brian Regan at [email protected].

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
First-year pair pays dividends (Men’s basketball)