Newcomer Casserly helps Key open eyes

January 14, 1994|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

When Francis Scott Key junior Topher Casserly woke up with neck spasms Tuesday, he and Eagles coach Jeff Cook were concerned.

But when Casserly squared up beyond the top of the key and hit a three-pointer in the opening minute against Catoctin that night, the worries vanished.

Casserly, a 6-foot-3 forward, finished with 23 points, helping the upstart Eagles improve to 5-3 with an 88-81 win over their Monocacy Valley Athletic League rivals.

"We've had some talented athletes in the past, but this season we have basketball players -- guys who play the game all year long," said Cook, who this season has four new starters, including Casserly. "Topher's a smooth player with a nice touch who does a little bit of everything for us. I wasn't counting on getting this much from him."

A conversation with Casserly shows the kind of feel he has for the game.

He talks about how the Eagles didn't get rattled after seeing Catoctin claw back from a big deficit to take a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. And how the Eagles will have to go with a tight zone Tuesday when they face powerhouse Middletown.

"I just love the game," he said. "We knew going in we'd be pretty good this season. We have a lot of guys who can just plain play and like to play. That's our main strength."

Casserly's scoring average is up to almost 15 a game after a 24-point effort against Walkersville and the 23 he scored Tuesday. He hurts teams with an accurate outside shot and also drives to the basket. But Cook said Casserly brings much more to the court than just scoring.

"He's an intelligent player who works very hard all of the time," Cook said. "He gets his points despite being an unselfish player. When the shot is there, he knows to take it; if it's not there, he can create and pass. He knows what a good shot is and what isn't."

Casserly has been a pleasant surprise as a rebounder and often creates mismatches with his ability to play just about any position.

He said it wasn't easy adjusting to the varsity level after playing on the junior varsity last season.

"The varsity level is so much faster and more intense," he said. "I worked hard on my defense and shooting over the summer. My shots are starting to fall now. The beginning of the season was rough getting used to the higher level."

The biggest surprise to Cook has been Casserly's role as a leader.

"He's a pretty quiet kid, but the kids knew what a good player he was and chose him as a captain," Cook said.

"At a players meeting earlier in the season, he was the one to speak up and say we needed a leader on the floor. He's been able to provide us with that."

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