BUTTE — The leading scorer for the Montana Tech men's basketball team isn't a starter.
Well, not normally, at least.
Senior guard John Chapman, a Frenchtown native, knows his role and knows it well. In all but two games, he's came off the bench early in the first half and made the most of his minutes.
He's averaging 13.3 points per game and knows how to drill a 3-pointer — he's made 32 of them this season, second most on the team.
He's a spark plug and the type of player coaches love to have on their squad. Quiet, humble and has gotten better with each passing season.
"Once I get out there, I just do my thing," Chapman said. "I just try to bring some energy later in the game instead of right off the bat. I just come in and try to get things going again, whether we have things rolling or we're in a slump."
Third on the team in minutes with 22.6 per game, Chapman gets plenty of time on the court. It's a slightly different role than the one he took last year, when he played in all 29 games, making 15 starts.
Hitting 43.2 percent of his 3-point attempts (and shooting 51.1 percent from the field) he's developed into a reliable player for Orediggers coach Adam Hiatt.
Chapman has just 10 turnovers on the season and dishes out 1.5 assists per game. Usually when the ball in his hands, he's looking to put it in the hoop.
"He could easily start for us," Hiatt said. "He's a terrific offensive player, and going into the year, we felt he was probably our most consistent offensive player. We wanted to have that consistency off the bench. When John's good, we're good on the offensive end."
Hiatt went on to say that it's sometimes harder to prepare for a player coming off the bench because opponents are more focused on the five starters.
Chapman certainly isn't an unknown quantity, however, and has led the team in scoring in four of Tech's 15 games. He has three 20-plus point scoring outings, including a season-high 27-point effort against Salish Kootenai College.
When asked where he learned to shoot so well, the answer was pretty simple.
"Just practicing in the gym every day," Chapman said. "It's always been fun to make baskets, so being in the gym, in the backyard, in the driveway, just shooting all the time."
When Chapman starts to heat up, it's best to watch out.
"You just have to see one go in, and after that, it's just gets easier," Chapman said. "The basket gets bigger and bigger, and it feels like anything you throw up there is gonna go in."
It makes sense, then, that his favorite basketball player growing up was Allen Iverson, the fiery guard who made his name playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, and Detroit Pistons and was known for his tremendous shooting ability.
Chapman is listed at 6-foot-2, slightly larger than Iverson's 6-foot frame, but the influences on his game are certainly there.
"He's competitiveness, his fight. He was the smallest guy on the court, but he didn't let that bother him," Chapman said. "He just went out there and fought every day, fought through adversity, day in and day out."
Chapman and the Orediggers know a little something about adversity.
Tech has struggled this season and is still looking for its first Frontier Conference win. Hiatt, in his second season as coach, feels the team has made strides but is aware that there's a long way to go.
"Last season, in 18 conference games, we had maybe four legitimate chances to win," Hiatt said. "So far in our first five full conference games we've played, we've had four chances to win, and we just haven't closed, we haven't finished games. Part of that is youth and part of that is that it's just uncharted territory."
Chapman is one of just three seniors on the squad that gives just more than 95 minutes per game to underclassmen.
Getting those players to the heights Hiatt imagines them at is a tough job, but it's one of the reasons he loves having players like Chapman on his squad. He's a quiet type of leader and lets his play speak for him.
"I have a love and passion for the game. I love coming out here," Chapman said. "We're coming down the stretch, these last 12 games, the last 12 I'll probably ever play in my life. I want to go out with a bang."