Wall Says Departed Assistant Sam Cassell Was Key To His Development

Washington Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall plans to use being cut from the USA Basketball World Cup squad as motivation for the upcoming season. Given the apparent influence of former Washington Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell, though, improvement for Wall today might be harder to come by than in the past.

Wall told csnwashington.com’s Ben Standig that the guidance of Cassell – who recently left Washington to assume the same position with the Los Angeles Clippers – has been a “big part” of his development since being drafted in 2010.

“[Cassell] was a big part of [his growth],” Wall said. “Definitely helped me with my jump shot. Just being a mentor, somebody who was a point guard who knew the game very well. It was big…”

The key word used multiple time in that quote is “was.” Cassell left Washington for an assistant coaching job with the Los Angeles Clippers last week.

“I was happy for him,” Wall told CSNwashington.com on Saturday. “His goal is to become a head coach one day. I think he thought it would come a little quicker being a coach with the Clippers. I wish him the best of luck.”

Stylistically, it’s hard to imagine a better role model for Wall than a retired point guard with the game of Cassell. Limited athletically, Cassell used skill, knack, and pace to carve out an accomplished if wayward 15-year career, winning three championships and being named to the 2004 All-NBA Second Team in the process.

Few players in the world boast Wall’s natural gifts. It’s growth in other areas that helped him develop into an All-Star this past season, and Cassell’s mentorship can’t be discounted in fostering it. Wall specifically points to his improved jumper as an attribute helped honed by Cassell, and it makes perfect sense given the latter’s renowned mid-range game.

It seems backwards on the surface that a player could be so affected by the absence of an assistant coach. But the layers of basketball are endless, and Cassell’s well-known kinship with Wall, Bradley Beal, and other Wizards looms especially large from a chemistry perspective. The tricks he taught Wall have been mostly instilled; it’s now about continuing to cultivate them. But the extremely vocal Cassell’s presence actually on the Washington bench will be sorely missed by Wall and company going forward.

NBA players experience change like this on many occasions throughout their careers, however, and Wall’s gifts and drive will likely overcome any detriment caused by Cassell’s departure. Just don’t be surprised if he struggles somewhat from the coming season’s outset. Clearly, Wall will have some adjustments to make without his longtime mentor by his side.

How will Wall fare without Cassell this season?

Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.