Cassie Peoples Gets The Point
June 16, 2010 - Colorado Springs, Colo.
At 9 years old, Cassie Peoples (Cy-Fair H.S./Houston, Texas) already was playing basketball with high-school age girls. Almost nine years later, she is once again one of the youngest members of the team, but this time around Peoples is playing for her country as a member of the 2010 USA Women's U18 National Team, which will compete in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women, June 23-27 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
One of six USA athletes who will return to high school in 2010-11, Peoples helped Cy-Fair to a 36-1 record and a Texas 5A state championship, alongside USA and Cy-Fair teammate Chiney Ogwumike. Peoples was honored as a 2010 Texas Association of Basketball Coaches 5A All-State Team member and Cy-Fair listed as the No. 6 team in the nation in USA Today's Super 25 final ranking.
As the USA Women's U18 National Team trains twice a day in preparation for the 2010 FIBA Americas zone qualifier, USABasketball.com sat down with the 5-6 guard to talk about her first red, white and blue experience and her development as a basketball player.
Did you feel you had played well enough in trials to make the team?
Well, coming into trials I knew that they would want a vocal point guard, someone who played defense, so I tried to emphasize that more. I don't feel that I played too well, but I know I did those little things that they notice. I think that was probably the biggest thing that separated me from other people.
Who taught you how to be a point guard?
When I first started playing I was put at the two position because I could shoot pretty well. My dad, he trained me really well. When I played for Team Express (AAU), I played for Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, and she moved me away from the two at a subtle pace because she felt that I wouldn't grow big enough to be a wing. She put me at the one, and her and her husband, when they coached me, they really coached me well and really taught me how to run plays and how to think the game.
*Davis-Wrightsil earned gold medals with USA Basketball in the 1994 Goodwill Games, 1987 Pan American Games, 1986 World Championship and the 1986 Goodwill Games and a bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics.
When did you play for Davis-Wrightsil?
I started playing for her when I was about 9 years old, and the girls at the time they were sophomores and juniors in high school. I started playing at a high level at a very young age.
What was that experience like to be so much younger?
I went through some tough times, not getting a lot of playing time, but I was able to really watch the game and learn from the older girls. Every day at practice was a battle because I was fighting for every minute that I played. When I first started playing, there were games where I didn't come off the bench, but I was still trying to learn every minute that I was around the older girls.
How long did you play AAU for Davis-Wrightsil?
I played with her until my seventh grade year, and then I moved to Florida in my eighth grade year. Even to this day, her and I, we are still really close. She came to Florida when I moved, and she watched me play. She's always critiquing my game, and she's always trying to help me get better.
How did you end up in a situation where you got to play with older girls for such an accomplished coach?
I went to a camp that she was holding, and I guess she saw something in me, and she pretty much took me under her wing and helped me really develop as a point guard.
Do you think that helped put you on the path you are on?
I do, definitely. First my dad training me and getting my skills to where they needed to be to get noticed, and then going to play with Clarissa was the very first organized basketball that I played. At that time, her style of coaching was really what a young player needed -- to be micro-managed and to really teach the game. I think that's a huge part of the reason why I'm able to see plays and I am able to remember plays is playing for her at a young age.
Was your father a basketball player or a basketball fan who understood the game?
He played in college, and he played for a little while overseas in Australia. He played for (the University of ) Mary Hardin-Baylor and Regis, which is in Texas I believe. He was a really good player, and he's still hard to this day to beat one-on-one. When I play, he's always critiquing what I do, just my skills. He's always trying to develop new skills for me.
In terms of basketball, is he also supportive, or is he more like a coach?
When I was younger, he was more focused on all that I needed to do, but now, I think he knows that I've developed and that he's taught me well. So now, he still critiques, but he also sees that I have developed, and I'm starting to think for myself.
Do you feel like you are learning again from a new coach playing for Jennifer Rizzotti, USA and University of Hartford head coach?
This whole experience, it's different from high school or AAU. It's just a different level of intensity during practice. Every practice you are demanded to go as hard as you can. It's made me a better player because I'm forcing myself to push myself, and it's not easy like it is in high school. Also, in high school, I'm used to averaging 15-20 points a game, and now I'm having to transform my game to more of what coach Rizzotti and the rest of the coaching staff wants -- being more of a floor general and a distributor than having to score because everyone can score. So, I think that's a great experience, too, because I'm learning how to do other things than just score. I think that's been a challenge, and it's been fun having a new challenge.
Your USA teammate Chiney Ogwumike also was your teammate at Cy-Fair this past season, has that helped you during training to have someone you know here with you?
It was really exciting when I found out that I would be trying out with older girls. Obviously, Chiney is on the team, and we thought it would be really good to have two players from the same high school representing not only our country but coming from the same school. That doesn't happen too often. It's also comforting because I know how she catches the ball and where she doesn't want it. That's good, too, knowing what type of a player she is.
You have one more year of high school and have verbally committed to attend the University of Texas. With this experience, do you feel like you are getting a jump-start on college?
I do feel like I'm getting a little glimpse of what it will be like in college. My workouts at home, they are intense too, but it's just different when you are with a team and you are going against competition. My workouts, they are hard and I do do two-a-days, but it's a lot different when you have college coach yelling at you and you have college-caliber players playing against you, and I do think that it definitely is going to give me a glimpse of what I have to bring everyday when I go to college.
You have been training for a week, and you've got a week to go before the tournament starts, how excited are you to start playing games?
I think everyone is ready to start playing. It's just a huge honor to be selected. Twelve girls out of I don't know how many across the United States, so it's just a huge honor. I can't put into words the feeling. It makes me want to work that much harder just knowing I was thought of to be one of the best to represent my country.
Have you seen a team identity emerge?
I think we have people that want to run the floor. We also have people who will set up the half-court offense, so I think our team can do pretty much anything. It's just a matter of being disciplined and doing what we know we can do. I think that's what we are working towards now. We know what we want to do. Sometimes we are not as disciplined because we are used to being able to score at will. So, I think everyone right now is more than happy and more than willing to compromise for the better of the team.