Cassell's Commitment To Terps Could Have Immediate Impact
By Dave Lomonico
With the addition of point guard Sam Cassell Jr. (Notre Dame Prep/Mass.) in mid-April, the Maryland basketball program now has five recruits coming to College Park this fall, not to mention Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, who will arrive the year after.
Joining Cassell, a Rivals.com three-star prospect, are three-star shooting guard Seth Allen, three-star small forward Jake Layman, four-star center Shaq Cleare and four-star center Charles Mitchell. Another recruit, three-star power forward Domonte Dodd is expected to go to prep school for a year. Before Cassell's commitment, ESPN had Maryland's class ranked among the top 20 in the country. The Terps were ranked 16th as of April 23.
A Baltimore native, Cassell is the son of Sam Cassell Sr., who starred at Dunbar before taking his game to three different college programs (including Florida State) and eventually a 15-year career in the NBA. Last year, Cassell Jr. averaged 22 points and six assists for Notre Dame Prep. He will bring a much-needed ball-handling and shooting presence to a Maryland squad lacking in those areas.
Cassell's declaration became even more significant when the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading scorer in 2011-12, guard Terrell Stoglin, declared for the NBA Draft after the Terps suspended him. The athletic department said Stoglin's failure to conform to the school's code of conduct prompted his year-long suspension.
Shortly after that announcement, last year's starting point guard, Pe'Shon Howard, was arrested for disorderly conduct outside a College Park restaurant. He awaits a court date and the school refuses to comment until due process has run its course.
PressBox: Sam, you originally committed to Maryland in March, but then you backed away a couple days later. Why did you step back from your decision, and why decide to recommit a month later?
Sam Cassell: Really, I just wanted to take a couple more visits before coming to a final decision. When I first picked Maryland, I hadn't visited any other schools. So I wanted to see a few more campuses just to compare.
PB: What schools did you visit, and what did you think of them?
SC: I visited Pittsburgh and South Florida, who were both recruiting me pretty hard. Both were great schools, and there was a lot to like about each of them, from the areas to the coaching staffs. But when I sat down to think about it, there really was no place like Maryland.
PB: There were some reports out there that your dad was a little skeptical about your going to Maryland. Did he say anything to make you want to decommit? What was he saying?
SC: No, my dad is cool with Maryland. He has nothing against the school and he's real happy for me. But when I first committed to Maryland, he just told me not to rush into anything. He told me to take my time and make sure I covered all my bases. He never pressured me into choosing another school or anything like that.
PB: What did your dad say when you picked Maryland?
SC: He just said, "OK son, now it's time to go to work. It's time to grow up and be a man." He did congratulate me, too, though.
PB: What separated Maryland in the end?
SC: There were a few things, but mostly it's a chance to play for my city and my hometown, to play in front of my family and friends. That's an opportunity I couldn't pass up. And I've always watched Maryland on TV growing up, too. I loved how hard they played, and it kind of really turned me on to them at a young age.
PB: How did coach Mark Turgeon and his assistants react when you recommitted?
SC: It was pretty much the same way they reacted the first time I committed. They were just real happy and told me they're happy to have me on board. I think they might have been a little disappointed when I decommitted, but they welcomed me right back.
PB: Why did you wait until the spring to commit? That's the trend now with recruits, but why did you take so long to choose?
SC: Well, I just wanted to make sure I thought the whole process through. I wanted to see who came after me the hardest, and in the end, it was Maryland.
PB: When did Maryland actually start recruiting you?
SC: They've been there in some form since July, and they offered me in September. They were on me before anyone else. Coach Bino [Ranson] has known me my whole life -- he knew me when I was a young guy with [AAU squad] Baltimore Elite. So when it came time [to be recruited], he was right there. Coach Bino is a great guy to be around.
PB: Besides coach Bino and the chance to play for your hometown, were there any other reasons you picked Maryland?
SC: It really was the best situation and fit for me. Watching them this year, I feel like I can help them a lot. With my game, my skills and my court vision, I believe I can bring a lot to the point guard position.
Then the fans there really supported me and showed me a lot of love. I took an unofficial and an official visit there, and then I saw Maryland play Florida Gulf Coast earlier this year. I love the Comcast Center and the atmosphere there.
PB: What specifically do you bring to the table as a point guard?
SC: I bring a lot of energy, first of all. I'm an up-tempo, enthusiastic kind of guy. Then I'm a scorer; I can shoot it a little bit.
PB: What do you have to work on to make sure you're ACC-ready?
SC: Oh, I need to work on everything, because I know the competition is tough in the ACC. I need to get stronger, quicker, move my feet on defense more, work on my touch, my driving -- basically my total game.
PB: Maryland struggled handling the ball some last year. How much did you watch the Terps play and what was your assessment of their point guard play?
SC: I watched them a lot and I even went to a couple games, so I know what the situation is there. I know they had some struggles at the point guard position, so I saw an opening there [to make an impact]. I'm a true point, and I feel like I can step in and help them out.
PB: So you're not going to have to redshirt or anything?
SC: I sure hope not. I'm going to work to make sure that doesn't happen. I'll be able to contribute right away.
PB: Can you compare your style to another point guard out there? Are you like your dad, or are you a little different?
SC: Yeah, I am like my dad. We both don't have great speed, but we're quick and we know how to get it done. We both know the angles of the game, how to find our teammates and the little things like footwork and vision to beat [the defense].
PB: Was your dad a big influence in your life?
SC: Yes, he helped me a lot. My dad and me always talked basketball when I was growing up, and when I got real serious about the game, he was always there to help. We still play together from time to time, and he really pushes me hard. My dad works me on the little things and makes sure I'm prepared to play at the next level. Then just being around him and watching him play was fun and a learning experience for me.
PB: Is it tough to live up to his name? Is it difficult being the son of a guy who starred in this area and had a solid NBA career?
SC: It is tough, because everyone is going to put a lot of pressure on me to live up to the name. But at the same time, I'm ready for the challenge and I welcome it. Now I have a chance to show off my talents and prove that I can play too.
PB: Do you think you can be better than your dad?
SC: Yes, yes I do. Right now I'm a better shooter than he was [in high school], but he was a better scorer. We'll see if that changes though.
PB: What do you think of Maryland's 2012 class in general? Usually, teams don't bring in six guys.
SC: Oh, this is great, man. All the coaches have been working hard to get all this talent in here. I can't wait to play with all those guys and grow with them over the next couple of years. The Maryland program is really on the rise. We're getting back to the days when they made [the NCAA tournament] every year.
PB: Do you think you can help Maryland win championships again?
SC: Yes, yes of course.
Issue 173: May 2012