Over the past seven years, Sam Cassell Jr. has attended two high schools (Towson Catholic and St. Frances), one prep school (Notre Dame Prep), one university (Maryland, briefly) and one junior college (Chipola). So for the 6-foot-4, 195-pound combo guard, a commitment Wednesday to Connecticut felt like “a long time coming.”
“I woke up this morning, made my decision [and said], ‘It’s about time,’” said Cassell, who also considered offers from Louisville, Marquette and Missouri, among others. “It feels good. It feels relieving. I feel good about my decision.”
One of the most heavily recruited junior-college prospects in the country, Cassell had signed with the Terps last year and even enrolled in classes at College Park during the summer of 2012. But in a controversial decision, the NCAA ruled him ineligible over coursework he took during his senior year at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass.
Cassell subsequently enrolled at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., where he redshirted as a freshman last year and made the dean’s list. He will suit up this year for the Indians and have three years of eligibility at UConn.
Though he grew up a Maryland fan, Cassell said he also had a rooting interest in his new school.
“I always followed UConn, always a Husky,” Cassell said. “I really started paying attention to UConn with Kemba Walker, when he took over that year [the Huskies won the national title]. … [And] I know [Baltimore native and former UConn star] Rudy [Gay]. I don’t know if he knows about [my commitment] now, but I know he will know.”
Cassell won’t be quite as close to home in Storrs as he would have been in College Park, but he’s excited to stay on the East Coast and play for a coach he’s known for more than a decade.
During the 2002-03 NBA season, Sam Cassell Sr. teamed up with Kevin Ollie to help the Milwaukee Bucks to a 42-40 record and the Eastern Conference playoffs. Cassell Jr. remembers watching his father that season and being introduced to Ollie, now the coach at UConn.
“He’s a cool guy, always funny. We built a good relationship,” Cassell said. “[My father] told me [Ollie is] a good guy, but it’s also his job, so he’s going to push you. Push me to be the best player I can be.”
Cassell said his father and godfather “really sat down and talked about” his decision, and the consensus among all three was that Connecticut was the best fit. Cassell wants to play the 1, but is capable of playing the 2 and will likely rotate between both spots in a UConn offense that is “really guard-oriented.”
“I can bring a winning attitude, scoring, and basically whatever the team needs I can bring,” Cassell said. “[The coaches] know what I can do and I know what I can do. I’ll come in and do what I do best. Help the program hopefully win another national championship.
With his recruitment wrapped up, Cassell said he’s happy to focus on the upcoming season with Chipola. Then this summer it will be back on the road again, to a place Cassell plans to be for the next three years of his life.
“My family, they’re excited,” he said. “Everybody knows how UConn basketball is, how important it is to that school. It’s close to home. They can easily get there. They’re excited.”