Loveland's Capobianco silences critics

Barbara Capobianco has always been amazed at the feats her son, Bobby, performed on the basketball court.

On more than one occasion, she's witnessed him display his exceptional shooting range by launching halfcourt shots that touched nothing but the bottom of the net. She gets amped when her son drives the lane before unleashing a vicious dunk in traffic. And Barbara was thrilled when Bobby helped Loveland beat league rival Kings with an NBA-range 3-point dagger in the waning seconds to send the contest into overtime before the Tigers outlasted their rivals, 62-59, last December.

But for all the talents he has shown while playing in high school, it was the tenacity he displayed as a 12-year-old that impressed her most.

As a kid, Bobby frequently engaged in one-on-one basketball games with his mom in the family's driveway in North Carolina, where he lived before coming to Loveland as a freshman. Barbara, a former star power forward at Vanderbilt, easily dispatched her son regularly on the court, utilizing a flurry of post moves and jukes to rack up victories in their head-to-head matchups.

But when Bobby turned 12 and grew to 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, things changed: He was no longer a pushover. He was able to defend his mother's post prowess and counter with his own combination of size and speed, finally earning a win in the series.

"I knew then he was on his way," Barbara says. "The academic game is something he picked up quickly."

Now standing at 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, Capobianco regularly
muscles by his opponents with ease, like his mother once did to him. Rated the nation's No. 100 player in the ESPNU 100, the Indiana-bound forward is entering his senior season on the heels of a huge junior year in which he averaged team highs of 20.1 points, 11 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game.

He scored a career-high 35 points against Lebanon last February and was named to the All-FAVC first team for the third time. His efforts helped Loveland to a 13-9 record and paced the Tigers as they advanced to the
district semifinals of the Division I tournament.

Already blessed with knowledge of the game, thanks to his mother, and an athleticism he inherited from both parents - his father, Bob, played football at Vanderbilt -- Capobianco was ahead of his time when he entered Loveland. But his playing weight and conditioning hampered his game and kept him from reaching elite status.

"He came in with a lot to prove, as he was overweight and slow," says Loveland coach Tim Partin. "But he had great hands and a great shooting touch. He understood the game. He just had some body work he had to do."

Despite the extra weight, he still managed to score 11 points per game as a freshman. But he knew for his game to truly progress, he would have to get in better shape. His desire to be the best drove him to run with a weight vest down a hill along a river near his home. Barbara also managed his
eating, restricting him to a steady diet of chicken and green beans.

Capobianco's Favorites

TV Show: "Entourage"
Movie: "Blazing Saddles"
Actor: Brad Pitt
Actress: Jessica Biel

The weight room became Capobianco's second home. The school's weight training coach, Casey Thomas, made sure he maintained his
workouts and instructed him in plyometrics and cardio work. Hundreds of hours were spent drilling in the driveway with his father, working on
myriad drop-step moves and jump hooks.

Soon enough, Capobianco saw results, and his game flourished.
"I was jumping higher and the squatting improved my athleticism," he says. "My arms blew up and I was moving people out [of] the paint easier."

He came into his sophomore campaign 30 pounds slimmer and
another inch taller. His game blossomed as he upped his averages to 20.6 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

With that hurdle crossed, Capobianco sought out a more competitive level of play, becoming a fixture on the Indiana Elite AAU team after
playing for the Ohio Force. But even as he consistently registered
double-doubles, he was aware of the skeptics.

He can't jump high enough. He doesn't shoot well enough.
Capobianco took it all in stride and never allowed the criticism to deter him.

"For every one person that loves you, there are three people that hate you," he says. "I've gotten about everything in the book. You know you've achieved something when everyone hates you."

To counter those who questioned his toughness and play, Capobianco sought out a pair of former Loveland big men in James Cripe and Clint Nagel to validate his progress. He more than held his own against the two collegiate players, and in their absence frequently used best friend Brian Wozniak, a 6-foot-4, 223-pound tight end who recently committed to Wisconsin for football, as his post opposition.

"I always think like the movie '300,'" he says. "It's the whole 'me against the world' thing. I'm going to go out and prove to people that I can do it."

Heading into his final season at Loveland, Capobianco will have another hurdle to clear. During a pick-up game earlier this year, he broke a bone in his left foot after throwing down an alley-oop and
landing on a defender's foot. He had surgery Oct. 1 and was expected to be out of commission close to six weeks.

"It's definitely an obstacle, but it's the first injury I had since I have been playing," Capobianco says.

Last January, he scored the 1,000th point of his career and was
handed the game ball, which currently sits in the family's makeshift
trophy room adjacent to his mother's 1,000-point ball from Vanderbilt and a ball given to him by Indiana coach Tom Crean after Capobianco
committed to the Hoosiers.

While the recent one-on-one contests have favored Bobby, Barbara occasionally defeats him in horse and still owns a prized possession the promising forward has yet to attain.

"She has an actual NCAA championship ring she won at Vanderbilt in 1984," Capobianco says.

Regardless of whether or not Bobby matches that feat as a Hoosier, he's already made his mom proud.

David Auguste covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.