As the star guard for and leader of the Trinity Catholic boys basketball team, there were skeptics who questioned whether Schadrac Casimir could play at the highest level of the college game, due in large part to his height — 5-9 — and unimposing physical stature.
One school undeterred was Iona College. On Sunday, the Gaels’ faith was rewarded when Casimir accepted a scholarship offer after taking a prep year.
“It really is a sigh of relief,” Casimir said during a telephone interview Monday from South Kent, where he played this season. “It was hard going the whole year not knowing where I was going.”
Casimir will become the 18th Trinity graduate to play at the Division I level. Casimir selected Iona over Fairfield, Toledo, North Carolina Central and UMass-Lowell.
“I thought it was the best fit and they recruited me the longest of anyone,” Casimir said. “They recruited me when people were saying I couldn’t play at the Division I level.”
Casimir was a member of the Trinity Catholic team that won a state championship in 2011, and in one of the best individual seasons in FCIAC history, led it back to the final a year ago, when it lost to Woodstock Academy.
Casimir averaged 25.7 points as a senior for the Crusaders, with seven games in which he scored 30 or more points, including a 50-point effort against Greenwich. Casimir also averaged 4.8 assists, 3.1 steals, made 52 percent of his 3-point shots and 90 percent of his free throws.
“I think it is the right fit for him,” said Trinity Catholic coach Mike Walsh, a 1969 graduate of Iona. “I think it is a great style of basketball for him and the school has a great following for basketball. I think it is good for him from a basketball standpoint and his education.”
Casimir said he was happy with his decision to take a prep year to better prepare himself for college.
“Coming out of Trinity, skill-wise I think I was ready,” Casimir said. “I needed to get mentally ready. I also needed to get my test scores up.”
Casimir averaged 19 points this year for South Kent, which finished 18-8 and is coached by Kelvin Jefferson, who is from Norwalk and played at St. Luke’s.
“We had a really good year and our best start ever at 14-2,” Jefferson said. “We couldn’t have done half of what we did without Schadrac. He was our most consistent player in terms of scoring and leadership. “He was our go-to guy. He’s fun to watch and fun to coach. He’s going to surprise a lot of people. He’s similar to (Louisville’s) Russ Smith, who when he was here people said he can’t do it, he’s too small.”
Walsh was one of the people last year who advised Casimir that taking a prep year would increase his marketability.
“Iona knew about Schadrac and went at him right away,” Walsh said. “It was one of those moves where it was good to go to a prep school and get bigger and stronger and get ready for the next level of basketball. No one worked harder than Schadrac on his game and I’m really happy for him.”
Casimir said there was a big difference playing at South Kent.
“It’s way different from the FCIAC, it’s not close,” he said. “Everybody is as good as you. One through five, all teams have good players. There’s a shot clock and the game is more physical. They don’t call fouls.”
Casimir now follows a road to the Division I level that started with current Trinity assistant John Smyth, and includes Rashamel Jones, Earl Johnson, Torey Thomas, Dave McClure and Craig Austrie.
“It means a lot because I looked up to them growing up,” Casimir said. “I want to make my own path now.”