Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Undersized Iona Freshman Schadrac Casimir Looks Like Russ Smith 2.0
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — South Kent (Conn.) coach Kelvin Jefferson coached Schadrac (pronounced Cedric) Casimir after coaching Russ Smith and immediately saw the similarities.
Both were undersized guards who didn’t have a defined position. Both could score the basketball. Boy, could they score.
“The biggest comparison [to the former Louisville guard] was [Casimir] is too small,” Jefferson told SNY.tv. “Coaches underestimated his heart.”
A 5-foot-10 native of Stamford, Conn., Casimir didn’t present as a high-major recruit, and thus garnered offers from the likes of N.C. Central, Toledo, UMass-Lowell, Fairfield, Cal State-Bakersfield and Iona.
He ultimately chose the Gaels last March because head coach Tim Cluess and associate head coach Jared Grasso told him he would get to shoot the ball.
As a freshman.
“This coach is different from any coach I’ve ever seen,” Casimir, who began his prep career at Trinity Catholic, told SNY.tv of Cluess. “He comes in and tells you to shoot as a freshman, so that was huge.”
Casimir has been shooting — and scoring — ever since stepping on the campus at Iona. He went off for 40 points against Delaware State this season and has won four MAAC Rookie of the Week honors.
On Friday night in a game televised on ESPNU, he went for 22 points in an 87-83 win over Siena that came on a night when Iona’s leading scorer, 6-4 junior point guard A.J. English, served a one-game suspension for his involvement in an altercation against St. Peter’s during Saturday night’s overtime win.
David Laury, the Preseason MAAC Player of the Year, went for 27 points sans English and former NIA Prep standout Kelvin Amayo added 17 points and 8 rebounds as the Gaels improved to 17-6, 10-2 in the MAAC.
Casimir shot just 4-for-17 in the game and 2-for-11 from beyond the arc, but was a perfect 12-of-12 from the foul line, where Iona went 30-for-35.
“He scored a lot from the free throw line,” Siena’s excitable coach Jimmy Patsos said. “I think Casimir’s a really good freshman. The guy’s probably Rookie of the Year, I would have to say with how many Rookie of the Weeks he’s gotten that Casimir’s one of the best rookies out there.”
Casimir entered the night averaging 13.8 points per game and has started every game for the Gaels, who have designs on getting back to the NCAA Tournament.
Cluess and Grasso have done a great job recruiting hidden gems, including English, who didn’t have a single scholarship offer before Iona offered and is now being touted as an NBA prospect.
Upon seeing Casimir at South Kent, both immediately liked what they saw.
“Like Russ Smith, he was a smaller guard who has a knack for making plays and scoring the ball,” Grasso said. “He’s not a point guard or a two guard, he is just a player.”
On one play in the second half, Casimir drove the lane against Siena’s bigs and kissed the ball high off the glass for a nifty layup. He has had to learn to be creative in scoring because of his height.
“I just try to go into the big man’s chest, hopefully I get the foul call,” Casimir said. “Try to aim for the backboard really. Hopefully put it over the trees so they can’t get it.”
Said Cluess: “He gets under people, they don’t know where he’s coming from. He’s very crafty, he changes speeds really well and he’s got a really nice pull-up. He attacks the rim hard for a kid of his size. Normally he shoots the 3’s as the best part of his game and he’s been struggling with that a little bit of that as of late. I think he’s unsure of when to take them for some reason and not as aggressive as we’d like him. I was telling him in the locker room, how many coaches would tell you when you’re 2-for-11 to keep shooting so just enjoy it and relax and go out there and be who you are. Don’t shoot because I want you to shoot. Shoot because you want to shoot. And when he was fouled, he was automatic from the foul line.
“And that was huge to be able to put the ball in his hands, because normally it’s in A.J.’s hands at that point.”
English will be back for Iona’s next game, Sunday against Marist, and Cluess is excited for his return.
“It will be fun having A.J. to this the mix and I think we just have to get better,” Cluess said.
For Casimir, he wants to get to the NCAA Tournament, a place where Russ Smith won an NCAA championship just two years ago.
“That’s our No. 1 goal,” he said of the making the Big Dance. “First we want to win the MAAC.”
Iona’s Isaiah Williams (foot) is expected back next week, sources told SNY.tv….Siena on Monday will announce that junior forward Brett Bisping is taking a medical redshirt for a toe injury, a source said.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.