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Introducing Maryland's Incoming 2012 Freshmen: Sam Cassell Jr.

via <a href="">247</a>
via 247

Mark Turgeon's first class was a monster, a six-man behemoth that is arguably Maryland's most promising in the last decade. But if you don't follow recruiting, the six will-be-freshmen aren't much more than names. Over the next several days, we'll be overviewing the class, recruit by recruit, introducing the newest batch of Terrapins to their future fanbase. We've already looked at Bahamian big Shaq Cleare, lanky wing Jake Layman, and good-natured Georgia forward Charles Mitchell. Today we focus in on scorer extraordinaire Sam Cassell Jr. And in case you've been living under a rock for the past several months, yes, he's that Sam Cassell Jr.

Name: Samuel James Cassell Jr.
Height: 6-3
Weight: 175
HS: Notre Dame Prep (Fitchburg, Ma.)
From: Baltimore, Md.
AAU: Nike Baltimore Elite
Position: SG / PG
Rankings: 247: | ESPN: | Rivals: , #34 SG, #146 overall | Scout:
Committed: Apr. 21, 2011
Recruiter: Bino Ranson
Twitter: @sam2ss2ll

Major Strengths: Sam's a scorer's scorer: he gets hot quick, can hit from almost anywhere, and has a fearless mentality when it comes to putting the ball up. (Think Terrell Stoglin compared to Sean Mosley.) He simply knows how to put the ball in the net and do it a lot, almost like it's inherent in him. He can hit from basically anywhere over the half-court line, and has a penchant for making seemingly impossible shots - 23-foot stepbacks with a hand in his face aren't uncommon sights. When he shoots in rhythm, he's extraordinarily dangerous from the perimeter. He has good size for a 2-guard and great size for the point, if that's where he ends up, which allows him to shoot over the top of most of his defenders. He's not particularly quick off the dribble, but he has a great feel and a canniness about him that helps him get shots off - loves his step-back, and also likes to back into a smaller player before fading away. He's a good passer who doesn't seem selfish and has enough of a handle to take care of the ball under pressure; ideally he'd be a secondary distributor as a 2-guard, but he can certainly handle some minutes at the 1 in a pinch. He's more experienced than any of Maryland's other commitments, having played two years of high-level prep ball, and the most ready to contribute right away, especially given that his shooting and shot-creating ability are college-ready traits. As you'd expect from a player's and coach's son, he's steady and smooth on the court, and doesn't seem to get rattled by much.
Needs Improvement: Athletically, Sam isn't going to blow you away. He doesn't have great quickness and isn't particularly athletic, which makes him a bit one-dimensional. That hurts as a defender, where he works hard and has good fundamentals, but struggles to stay in front of quicker opponents; and as a slasher, where he can have trouble beating his man to the tin. As for his shooting, he's not a catch-and-shoot sniper; he works better creating for himself with the ball in his hands, which means he's at his best operating outside the offense. And while he made those shots at NDP, you have to wonder if Mark Turgeon is eager to have that issue again so soon after Stoglin. I'm also unconvinced he's really a point guard, like he (and possibly Turgeon) say: he's unselfish, but he seems hard-wired to score (not a bad thing in general, but it can be in a PG) and isn't very dynamic when it comes to creating for others. He also has a tendency to veer into negative body language, and reportedly cursed at an official in the Capital Classic. Lastly, while being the least raw of the recruits is nice, it may also mean he has the least to grow; he's already been exposed to very good coaching, is a year older than the rest of the freshmen, and his lack of elite quickness and athleticism may limit his potential as well.
Interesting Storyline: We all know what's really important here.


Will he ever do the dance?

Comparison: It's obviously tempting to take the easy way out and compare him to his pops, or even to Terrell Stoglin - who, to be frank, isn't a million miles away. But for the more pragmatic approach, I'll take Kenny Boynton, the shooting guard who recently enjoyed a successful season at Florida. Both of them have certain physical disadvantages, both have gunner instincts, and both are primarily shooters who are good off the dribble. Boynton had some struggles with inconsistency, but a similar career arc for Sam - although probably a less successful one - wouldn't surprise me at all.
Prediction: As I've said before, I have a sneaking suspicion he'll sneak into the starting lineup; even if he doesn't, he'll likely be one of the first off the bench. The combination of his relative experience, college-ready skillset, and ability to play either guard spot means he will get minutes right away. I'm not sure he's a long-term starter, though; his best role might be as the first guard off the bench, filling it at either the point or the 2 depending on the situation and providing a serious scoring spark when the offense bogs down. All indications are that Maryland is looking to add a top-tier point guard in 2013 (and hopefully a top-tier point guard's brother as well), which will certainly crunch his minutes as a sophomore. But Pe'Shon Howard will have graduated by his junior year, and who knows whether **2013 Point Guard Recruit** is still here by then. I'd imagine a starting spot will be up for grabs between him and Seth Allen by his junior year. But even if he never becomes a starter, his scoring ability alone should secure him a long-term spot of significance.
In a Turtleshell: A canny player with an unusual ability to hit tough shots and put the ball in the basket at a torrid pace, Cassell could play either guard position and serve an important role as an offensive sparkplug and a much-needed secondary distributor. He has a variety of college-ready and necessary skills - particularly as a shot-creator - that should ensure both immediate and long-term roles in College Park.

Links: 247 | ESPN | Rivals | Scout | Interview with PressBox | Interview after Cap Classic | Baltimore Sun commitment story