Detroit — Friday is decision day for U-D Jesuit’s Cassius Winston.
The heralded senior guard will announce his college choice at around 2:30, following a pep rally at the school He’ll choose between Michigan State, Stanford and Pittsburgh.
Winston, ranked the No. 7 point guard and No. 28 player overall in the 2016 by Scout.com, is one of the best players in the state and was highly sought across the country.
It’s the end of a long recruiting road for the Winston family, which was very particular about the process and helped dictate when schools could contact Cassius, just to try to keep things under control.
“The family has done a great job of trying to make this a very normal recruitment process. They’ve been very deliberate in the process, researching schools,” U-D coach Pat Donnelly said. “They did a phenomenal job of keeping the recruitment process as normal as possible for a high-profile student-athlete. He was still able to function normally as a student and I give a lot of credit to his mom and dad for that.”
After helping U-D to back-to-back appearances in the state semifinals and averaging 24.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 7.2 assists during his junior season, Winston improved his jump shot in the summer.
A wrist injury was a minor setback, but Donnelly said that Winston is ready to come back for his senior year and push U-D to another shot at an elusive state championship, which the school never has won in basketball or football.
“His offense was really expanded. The element I really took note of was the improvement in consistency of his jump shot,” said Sam Webb, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “He’s added a step-back jumper in his game and he can really keep quicker-footed defenders honest now. He can hit the 3, he can shoot off the dribble and he certainly can drive and finish with contact.”
Winston also has added some weight to his frame, putting him at about 185 pounds, according to Donnelly, which will make him better suited to driving the lane and taking contact, one of his fortes on offense.
The improved jump shot also will force defenders to pick their poison in choosing how to guard Winston, given his ability to drive and distribute.
“He’s added a step-back jumper in his game and he can really keep quicker-footed defenders honest now,” Webb said. “He can hit the 3, he can shoot off the dribble and he certainly can drive and finish with contact. His court vision is outstanding. I can’t think of a better passer as a point guard in the country than Cassius.
“He’s not necessarily a dynamic scorer at that level and he’s not a super run-and-jump athlete, but he’s always going to be the smartest player on the floor.”
With MSU coach Tom Izzo reportedly visiting the school personally to try to woo Winston, it could be tough for a high school athlete to maintain a level head, but Donnelly said that Winston has handled everything in stride throughout the process.
“He’s a special kid. It’s not because he’s so talented in basketball. He’s very well-known and well-recognized and throughout this entire process, he’s been recruited by head coaches for four years and he’s remained very humble,” Donnelly said. “He’s remained Cassius, a happy high school kid that doesn’t have a huge ego and is very focused on what his goals are … and taken it all in stride.”
As for a final choice, Donnelly isn’t sure which way Winston is leaning, but would love to see Winston stay close to home.
“As a coach, selfishly, I would love to see (him go to MSU),” Donnelly said. “I would love to see him in college and see him in person.”
According to Webb, that wish could come true.
“I’d be shocked (if he didn’t pick MSU). I think that it was always Michigan and Michigan State,” Webb said. “When Michigan came off the table, it gave him pause and he did consider his other options. They really liked Stanford but it’s far. I can’t see him going that far away from home.”