GVSU guard among league leaders in assist to turnover ratio

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Darren Kapustka (3) tries a three point shot.  The Lakers defeat the Chargers of Hillsdale College Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Darren Kapustka (3) tries a three point shot. The Lakers defeat the Chargers of Hillsdale College Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 in Allendale.

A.A. Knorr

Senior-year Darren Kapustka feels the same way about music and scoring. He’ll let his teammates take care of it.

In the locker room and on the court, Kapustka’s 2016 focus has been almost primarily centered on making sure his teammates get what they need.

The Lakers (15-8, 9-8 GLIAC) have a unique roster, with no clear scorer, but rather a number of 10+ points per game scorers. Early in the season, Kapustka saw the spread of talent, and decided to change his role from a scorer to a facilitator.

“This year I knew we had a lot coming back, a lot of scorers, with AJ (Hayes) being healthy, Ricky (Carbajal), Luke (Ryskamp), Chaz (Rollins), Trevin (Alexander), all those guys can score the ball, ” Kapustka said. “So I felt if I could find a role in getting guys the ball, that would benefit our team a lot.”

Kapustka is the unchallenged assist king for the Lakers this season, having dished out 78 despite coming off the bench. Hayes, GVSU’s starting point guard, in second-best on the team with 48 assists.

The post-game stat sheet is right-heavy more often than not in Kapustka’s line. His 4.3 points per game are the lowest he’s recorded since his freshman season, but a Kapustka game in 2015-16 is one that features seven assists or so.

Kapustka is tied for third in the GLIAC in assist to turnover ratio, serving up 3.2 assists for each turnover. The past three seasons, Kapustka proved his abilities as a shooter and a scorer, and his passing abilities were still prevalent. Now, the 5-foot-9-inch guard frustrates opposing defenses not by knocking down deep 3-pointers, but by zipping through the lane and sliding a pass through to a waiting big man.

“The last couple years I was kind of a scorer off the bench and I took a lot more shots, but with the makeup of our team I kind of realized that I would need to be able to get guys the ball,” Kapustka said. “I think my experience over my four years has made me understand the game a lot better and then I’m able to find guys in open spots.”

Kapustka’s transition to a pass-first guard is reminiscent of the path masses of college athletes take at some point during their careers. Near every college basketball player was a primary scorer growing up and through high school careers, but the more skilled college game doesn’t allow everyone to continue in those roles.

Some rebound. Some shoot. Some have no choice but to cheer. Kapustka passes.

“He’s a veteran guy and he’s probably more comfortable than a lot of the guys in terms of knowing where people are going to be on the floor,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. “He’s just always had the ball in his hands and he’s just more aware of where the open man is than other people.”

The on-court transformation shows during games, but his off-court transformation isn’t seen by as many fans. Earlier this season, Kapustka and Alexander were named Laker co-captains. Though GVSU’s roster features four seniors, Kapustka is the only one to have been a Laker his entire career.

“DK has not always been a naturally vocal guy, and to his credit he has really done an outstanding job this year from day one, somewhere I think he made conscious decision (to really) give it everything (his) senior year,” Wesley said. “From an emotional standpoint he’s been very verbal and he hasn’t had any bad days. He’s probably been our very best guy that way.”

Kapustka and the Lakers are fighting for a spot in the GLIAC tournament, and host Lake Superior State in a key matchup on Feb. 11.