For the first chapter of his high school career, Sam Cassell Jr. starred for Towson Catholic’s junior varsity. The 6-foot-2 combo guard followed that up with a standout junior season for St. Frances’ varsity. Now the senior from Baltimore is readying for his final act away from home.
Cassell, a valuable rotation player for the Panthers one year ago, is spending his senior year at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass.
“His family put out some feelers. It was something they were interested in,” said Crusaders coach Ryan Hurd. “I felt like it was a good fit. He’s the kind of kid we’re looking for. We’re definitely excited to have him. … I’d seen him play a couple of times. He fits in real well with what we like to do. He plays at the tempo we play at, he defends and scores. Along with all that, he understands the game well enough to get other people involved. Dealing with as many talented kids as we have on the roster, that’s going to be important.”
Several Baltimore players have suited up for Notre Dame Prep, most recently former Lake Clifton point guard Antonio Barton (Memphis), former Lake Clifton forward Cleveland Melvin (DePaul), former Towson Catholic forward Levi Noel (Eastern Illinois) and former Forest Park guard Antoine Myers (Pensacola Junior College) on last season’s roster.
Hurd said he switches his lineups frequently and doesn’t have a set of starters in mind just yet. But so far, he has been impressed with Cassell’s attitude and his ability to run the point.“His ability to make shots with a hand in his face has been astonishing so far,” Hurd said. “But also his willingness to be a floor leader is something I’ve been excited about, too. … I think he’s just scratching the surface, but I know he’s willing to work hard. He’s a name that keeps surfacing among the college coaches.”
Nike Baltimore Elite coach Carlton "Bub" Carrington had Cassell on his roster for roughly three-quarters of the AAU season this year. While Cassell started off the circuit as an unknown player with a famous name, Carrington said his game flourished and coaches took note.
“I think by him being in places where people would see him, they realized that he could play,” Carrington said. “Sam really can play. He’s really a high-level guard. He just hadn’t been seen. But if I had a scholarship, I would give it to him in a heartbeat. He just had to get himself in a situation where he could be seen. … He plays just like his father. He’s got the mid-range game. I’ll watch video of the games, and I watch him make six, seven shots in a row. And his IQ is a little beyond the average kid. He sees things the average kid doesn’t see.”
Sam Cassell Sr. is running his son’s recruitment, but several mid-major-plus schools are involved and quite a few high-major programs are “nibbling.” Carrington expects that, after this season with Notre Dame Prep, Cassell’s stock will rise even higher.
“I wouldn’t be surprised that, after this prep year, he gets stronger and practices every day, I don’t even think they realize what they’re about to see,” Carrington said. “Once he gets out there on that prep circuit and he gets to go against these high-level type guys, [coaches will] say, ‘Hold up. This kid’s better than them.’”
Baltimore Sun photo of Sam Cassell Jr. by Barbara Haddock Taylor / Jan. 31, 2010