A chance abroad

In three basketball seasons at USF, Chris Capko was never the star. He never led the Bulls in scoring, and most of his playing time came off the bench.

So when his collegiate career ended with the conclusion of the 2006-07 season, it seemed as if his playing days were over, but the once walk-on guard isn’t ready to call it quits.

Capko, 23, recently signed on with an agent and is pursuing a professional career overseas. After averaging just 1.8 points in 65 games at USF, Capko isn’t expecting a big contract. All he’s hoping for is chance to get paid to play basketball for as long as possible.

“I know I’m not a guy who’s going to play in the NBA or anything like that,” said Capko, a Lakeland native. “As far as the experience that playing overseas could provide me for a year – maybe not making the most money – but still playing ball while I can is something I’m really excited about, even though it probably won’t be for a whole lot of money.”

Capko transferred to USF from the University of Florida during the 2003-04 season. His first year as a Bull was spent as a walk-on with little statistical impact on the team. Then, as a junior and with a scholarship, Capko had his biggest season – appearing in 29 games, starting 23 games and leading USF with 128 assists.

Capko’s increase in playing time came because of an injury-depleted team, including a season-ending injury suffered by top prospect Chris Howard, which gave Capko a chance to be the Bulls’ point guard. But regardless of how it came, he never took his playing time for granted.”There aren’t too many walk-ons who have gotten out of basketball what I’ve gotten,” said Capko, who played in the second-most games during the Robert McCullum era. “I got a couple years of school paid for, played in a ton of games at a high level, and now I’ve got a chance to play professionally.”

An ankle injury suffered 10 games into last season kept Capko out of 12 of USF’s last 20 games. It didn’t help his playing time when Howard got healthy and became the starting point guard for the second half of the season.

With his degree already earned, Capko saw a lot of action from the bench during his final days as a Bull, but he doesn’t regret a thing.

“If Chris (Howard) could come in and help the team win, that’s all I wanted. I just wanted the team to win,” Capko said. “I wanted the seniors to go out on a winning note. I wanted more for Coach McCullum.”I would’ve like to play more, but at the time I really couldn’t bring as much to the table as I wanted to, so I really understood why I wasn’t playing a whole lot.”

Now with his collegiate career completed, Capko is training to play in Europe. He doesn’t know how much playing time he has in the future, but when it eventually ends, he’d like to stay involved in basketball, whether it means coaching or using his mass communications degree to get involved in television or radio.

Capko said he has received an offer from a team in Finland with a salary of about $3,000 per month, and if he doesn’t get a better offer in the next month or so, he’ll likely accept and see where it goes from there.

“I’m going to set a yearly goal and set goals with the team I’m on,” Capko said. “I’m going to try to make the most out of it year after year after year, but I know I’m probably not going to play until I’m 30. I’d like to get a year or two years out of it, enjoy the experience, travel throughout Europe and just play basketball while I can.”