SACRAMENTO — Sam Cassell Jr. has been through the trenches to get to the NCAA Tournament, from Maryland to Florida to Connecticut to New Rochelle.
Getting a Husky uniform took a lot of work in itself. Cassell was originally set on going to Maryland, but his academic ineligibility prompted him to first enroll at Chipola College. There, he had to sit out a year before even playing, and after that, he chose to go to UConn, coached by Kevin Ollie, his father’s (Sam Cassell) former NBA teammate.
However his stay in Storrs did not go as expected. He went from averaging 3.9 points per game in 2014-15 to only 2.2 in 2015-16. Not only did he receive minimal playing time, but he suffered from multiple injuries, including a stress fracture in his leg. With that, Cassell explored his transfer options and Iona came calling.
“When I talked to [the Iona] guys all they talked about was getting back to the NCAA Tournament,” Cassell said.
This year, at Iona as a graduate student, Cassell has done just what he set out for: he’s hepled bring Iona to the NCAAM Tournament.
“It's good to get out of the snow,” Cassell said during Iona’s pre-NCAA Tournament press conference. “It's good to see some palm trees and sunshine.”
And that’s not all. Cassell is playing the best ball of his career. He opened the season with 28 points against his father’s alma mater, Florida State. Later on, he made SportsCenter after receiving Kevin Connor’s star of the night for his game against Rider, in which he hit seven threes.
Right now, the Gaels are 30th in the country in points per game and a lot of the credit is due to their strong perimeter shooting. Jon Severe and E.J. Crawford complement Cassell’s fire from the perimeter with 43 percent and 45 percent three-point percentages respectively.
Even better, Cassell is schooling his dad on the court as well.
“Last summer, I got him,” he said. “Beat him bad. Too slow, too slow now.”
Keep in mind that the elder Cassell is currently an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers.
Cassell is coming into his own and will prove to be a dynamic three-point weapon for the Gaels coming into their matchup tomorrow against Oregon. Then, who knows what the Gaels can accomplish?
“We are the underdogs,” Cassell said. “It's just up to us to go out there and play Iona basketball, and I think if we do that, I think we will be fine.”