For Metuchen High School girls basketball star Cassie Smith, there’s been a tremendous amount of growth involved with her game since arriving as a freshman three years ago. Not only did Smith grow in stature, but her game has evolved vastly. Last season as a junior, Smith averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, leading the Bulldogs to an 18-8 record and a berth in the Central Group I semifinals.
Smith has become one of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s top players by working hard on and off the court.
“I’ve grown tremendously since freshman year, as I’ve worked all the time over the summer; working on getting stronger in the weight room and always shooting and getting shots up,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot overall, even height wise, and I’ve gotten bigger and stronger since my freshman year and I know I’m not even done growing yet.”
The prospect of Smith growing even more is a scary one to Metuchen’s opponents this season and if you ask first year head coach Pat Mayo, her star’s game is very well-rounded and should strike fear into anyone the Bulldogs play.
“She’s really a complete player; she can play all five positions and if I need her at point guard, she can play it. If I need her to post up, she can post up and she’s very coachable,” Mayo said. “She’s an unselfish leader and I tell her sometimes that I need her to have a sense of urgency. Cassie understands when that comes up and she’ll know when to take over. I don’t need to tell her what to do.”
Sixteen times last season, Smith scored 20 or more points, with a season-high 30 point effort against Dunellen on Feb. 11 leading the way. In two Central Group I games, Smith averaged 25 points and nine rebounds, standing out as a star for the Bulldogs.
But, the biggest feat of her junior season came on Jan. 18 against Cardinal McCarrick. With a short jumper, Smith went over 1,000 career points, becoming just the eighth player in Metuchen history to reach the century mark.
“It was a really cool moment for me and it wasn’t expected at all; I was shocked when I did it, even though I knew I was closing in,” she said. “It was great to do it at home also, I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else.”
After scoring more than 200 points in the final 11 contests of the 2012-13 season, Smith stands fewer than 50 points from passing former head coach Val Gazda who posted 1,254 as a player.
According to Mayo, Smith has a high basketball IQ, which helps her be so effective in pressure spots on the court. But for the first time in her career, Smith is going to be counted on to be a vocal leader on the court, managing an up-tempo offense and pressure defense that Mayo brings with her from a successful stint at Piscataway.
“I’m one of two seniors on the roster and we’re a very young team and I just need to help guide them down the right paths on the court,” Smith said. “It’s something I’m prepared to do and I’m eager to be that kind of leader.”
But for now, Smith and her Metuchen teammates have lofty goals in mind, most notably going unbeaten in Blue Division play. They can get off to a good start on the front Friday against Middlesex in both schools’ season openers.
Smith is committed to Bentley University following graduation and having the assurance that her career isn’t over when Metuchen’s season ends is comforting to her.
“It’ll be sad when I leave here, but it won’t be as sad if I didn’t have more basketball ahead of me,” she said.