After every player and coach on both teams in the main event of Saturday’s Capital Classic had been announced, Sam Cassell Jr. walked near center court and took a drink out of a cooler standing next to the scorer’s table. He pretended not to notice the public address announcer calling special attention to the lone player left to be introduced.
When the P.A. announcer made clear he was revealing that Cassell had chosen to orally commit to Maryland, the player did his best to be unfazed by the cheers that erupted from the crowd at T.C. Williams High, too.
And so, what passes for suspense at high school basketball all-star games was gone before the contest even began. Cassell originally had committed to Maryland in late March, but shortly thereafter, his father, former NBA guard and Washington Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell Sr., reportedly denied his son had settled on a college destination.
The guard from Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., took official visits to South Florida and Pittsburgh over the past month, but on Saturday, he officially — and very publicly — arrived back at his initial decision to commit to the Terrapins.
“I thought I rushed into it, because I didn’t get a chance to see any other schools,” Cassell Jr. said of his temporary de-commitment. “But after I seen the other schools, I knew Maryland was the place to be.”
The Capital Classic’s nightcap featured five of the six members of Maryland’s 2012 recruiting class, and that quintet led the United States All-Stars to a 105-93 victory over the Capital All-Stars. While the five future Terrapins combined for 49 points, Hargrave Academy forward Montrezl Harrell tallied a game-high 24 points for the U.S. All-Stars and was awarded MVP honors. Harrell will play at Virginia Tech next season.
Center Shaquille Cleare led all Maryland recruits with 14 points. Cassell recorded 12 points, while guard Seth Allen (Fredericksburg) tallied 10. Damonte Dodd, a 6-foot-9 forward who plans to sign with Maryland, also played. Terrapins recruit Jake Layman — the sixth of Maryland’s incoming freshmen — was supposed to compete Saturday, as well, but he could not make the trip after recently having his tonsils removed.
But the five future Terrapins in attendance made enough of an impression in front of a partisan crowd. With just less than eight minutes remaining in the game, the five Maryland recruits found themselves on the court at the same time. Pro-Maryland chants rang out from the crowd.
“Everybody got a sneak preview of next year,” Cassell said of the three-minute stretch.
When the game ended, Cassell and his four future teammates posed for group photos and shared warm embraces. Even though Cassell had worn a South Florida shirt during Friday’s team practice, none of the other Maryland recruits were surprised by his final decision.
“I knew it was coming,” forward Charles Mitchell said. “Because I was texting him the whole time after he de-committed every day. ‘Maryland Terp. Maryland Terp.’ ”