A famous name and a sparkling preseason had expectations for Sam Cassell Jr. at a fever pitch. Yet, those expectations were not lived up to. Like many of his teammates, it was an up-and-down year for Cassell.
Coming into the season with a famous name and a sparkling preseason, expectations for Cassell were at a fever pitch. Yet, those expectations were not lived up to. Cassell was brought into the program as a junior college transfer. He was named First Team All-American by National Junior College Athletic Association and Panhandle All-Conference after averaging 18.4 points and 3.7 assists to lead Chipola to a 26-6 record and to the NJCAA Region VII Championship. Having just lost Shabazz Napier to the NBA, Cassell was seen as an addition that would bolster the offense.
In his preseason games against Southern Connecticut and Assumption, Cassell showed off a long-range shooting game that seemed to be just what UConn needed in its offense. He combined to knockdown seven of 14 shots from 3-point range. At the time, the excitement about what Cassell could bring was a result of not having seen him before. Here was this brash, confident gunner who was chucking up threes. Ultimately, that was what did him in as the season wore on.
Take one look at the game log and it becomes clear that he lost Kevin Ollie's trust. To start the season, Cassell was firmly in the guard rotation. He played 23 or more minutes in six of the opening seven games of the campaign. That playing time was not met with good play. Cassell struggled to shoot as well as he did in the preseason. He went 8-for-33 in those first seven games from 3-point range.
The problem with Cassell's game this season was his inability to bring much else to the floor besides shooting. If the shots weren't falling, Cassell was a net negative. Being an average athlete, that doesn't really distribute enough to be a point guard, that exhibits lazy behavior on defense will not get you any favors by Ollie and his staff.
By mid December, Cassell had fallen out of the rotation. Before injuring his foot, Cassell played over 10 minutes in just four of his final 12 games.
Despite the general sense of being underwhelming, there is hope to be had about Cassell. Transferring into a team is difficult. Transferring to a program like UConn, coming off a national championship season, with a ball-dominant point guard on the roster, is downright impossible. With more time in the program, with Ollie and the staff, Cassell should only improve in his second season in Storrs. Hopefully, his injury woes are behind him and we can see the real Sam Cassell Jr. this year.
However, there is a possibility Cassell gets lost in the shuffle. With Sterling Gibbs and Jalen Adams coming into the program, there will be a glut of guards on the roster. Cassell has to continue improving on both ends of the floor if he wants to crack Ollie's rotation.