A shooting star at point guard Cason is Southern's all-around leader

December 17, 1992|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

He's not quick. He doesn't have great leaping ability. When he shoots a jumper, it looks more like a shot put.

So what makes Southern's Damon Cason arguably the area's best point guard?

"One thing, he's a skillful player," said Southern coach Meredith Smith. "He can do everything well. He's an adequate defensive player. He is an exceptional ballhandler and passer, and has a tremendous shooting touch."

The 6-foot-1 Cason admits that he's more of a shooting guard than a point guard, but there's no arguing what he has accomplished in a little more than a season as a starter at the point.

In his sophomore year last season, Cason was a first-team All-Metro selection after averaging 16.5 points and an area-best 10.3 assists.

This season, he is averaging 18.6 points and 8.1 assists through six games for the third-ranked Bulldogs.

He's also the keeper of the family tradition at point guard. His older brother, David, now attending Southern Idaho Junior College, was a first-team All-Metro pick during the 1989-90 season.

Asked what makes him one of the area's premier floor leaders, Cason said: "I'm not selfish. When everybody on the team gets an opportunity to play, I like getting them the ball and getting them involved in the offense."

On the final night of the Tymark Mixer in Norfolk, Va., last weekend, Cason had to be the Bulldogs' offense. With leading scorer Kevin Simpson facing double-teaming most of the game against John Hugenot (Va.), Cason scored a career-high 34 points in a 88-50 victory. Cason and Simpson were named to the all-tournament squad. Cason followed that with 32 against Northwestern on Tuesday.

"Out of five games, he has had an average game, a couple of subpar games and two outstanding games," Smith said during practice Monday, "but I think he's ready now to really take off."

Expectations have been high for the youngest Cason since arriving to Southern in the fall of 1989. His fancy passes and ball-handling displays, which became a trademark when he teamed with his brother while playing in the Cherry Hill recreation program, were highly anticipated by Southern followers.

His first varsity game was less than memorable. Against Dunbar (D.C.) in an opening-round game at the James Kenner JTC Tournament at Georgetown in December 1989, he had a couple of three-point attempts that didn't even touch the rim. In the locker room afterward, he sat at a locker crying, but his big brother was there to console him and give advice.

"He has a lot of faith in me," said Cason. "He has always wanted me to do better than him. He always calls me from college, asking me how I'm playing and the team, if I'm working on jumper and my speed. He has always wanted me to do better than him in anything I do."

In comparing the two, Damon is more of scorer, with good outside shooting range. He can hit three-pointers with consistency, despite his unorthodox shooting style.

Smith has thought of making adjustments to Cason's technique, but as he said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Cason, a co-captain, said: "I've always been shooting like that. When I was growing up, I had a set shot and I never would jump. My friends in Cherry Hill always told me that I would be playing against bigger people and that I had to start jumping to my shot.

"Playing against bigger guys out in Cherry Hill has influenced me to work on getting a better jumper than shooting set."

Those who follow Southern, including David Cason, believe those on- and off-court qualities make Damon a better player than his brother.

Already recognized as one of the country's top juniors, Cason has college recruiters inquiring, but first things first.

"With the couple of wins down in Virginia, our minds are focused on winning and executing," he said.

"Our people off the bench have stepped up and have played a big part. Now, we're working on a successful season and winning the state championship."

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