On March 15, 2019, Cedric Russell’s offseason started with him obsessively practicing the three-point shot he previously missed the day before. The foundation of this obsession was birthed by the last second shot, that Russell missed for the Ragin’ Cajuns to help advance them against South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
But, for Russell, he hasn’t forgotten about that shot or the many challenges he’s faced regarding his health in the past two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Louisiana guard is still trusting in his shot and is even more confident that everything is again falling right into place.
Russell, a top five Louisiana High School recruit from Peabody Magnet, known for his shoot-first mentality, averaged 22.4 ppg, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists as a senior. He led his alma mater to a 2017 Class 3A state title, where he was named championship game MVP scoring 22 points.
On the journey to the State Title game, Russell reminisced on a game where he was surprised at his shooting ability.
In a playoff game for Peabody Magnet, Russell currently tallied 47 points. With a few minutes left in the game, his assistant coach looked at him on the bench and asked him, “Do you want to go for 50?”
Russell immediately checked back in the game. With the ball in his hand, the senior slightly crossed half court. Seeing the goal in his eye view, he pulled up for the deep three. Cedric Russell ended that playoff game scoring 50 points.
With the exposure from his high school career and his scoring capacity, Russell was highly recruited by LSU, Houston, Texas Tech, and North Carolina State. The Ragin’ Cajuns were able to secure Russell after the coaching staff for NC State was drastically changed before gaining Russell’s commitment. A change that the Louisiana guard believes worked out in his favor.
“This was the best opportunity long term wise and looking at the bigger picture,” Russell said. “To build that reputation in college and looking at where I will be basketball-wise for my junior and senior year. Everything is falling into place as I envisioned it.”
Looking to pick up where he left off, Russell felt he could instantly make an impact for the Ragin’ Cajuns. As a freshman, Russell scored 15 points in his collegiate debut against Ole Miss, shooting 10-11 from the field. This shooting frenzy carried over to two more games against Louisiana College (15 points) and Savannah State (20 points). Russell capped his freshman season with 10 points against LSU in the NIT tournament.
Ready to build on the successful freshman season, Russell ran into an unexpected situation.
On a Thursday during his sophomore offseason, the Louisiana guard and another teammate were going for a rebound in a scrimmage. The weight of both players landed on Russell’s foot. Immediately he knew his foot was broken.
Louisiana guard faced a lot of doubts toward his comeback, but he knew it was just preparing him for the future. “It was all a test to get me to where I am today, facing things and going through adversity,” Russell said.
An offseason full of rehab and working to regain full speed and strength. Russell overcame the challenges thrown at him, which were more than just a broken foot. He was then faced with many more roadblocks in these past two offseasons such as a sprained ankle, a car crash and the flu.
But the Louisiana guard still was faithful to the process. In the 2018-2019 season for Russell, he led the team in 3-point field goal attempts (174) and 3 pointers made (61). Not only being able to shoot from deep, Russell, became an 80% free throw shooter, placing 3rd on the team in that category.
His most break out game was against Little Rock. Russell scored a career-high 34 points, but the most impressive statistic of the guard’s career-high game is that he scored 21 of those points in the second half to revive Louisiana from a 12-point deficit. Russell finished 10-15 from the floor, 5-8 from behind the 3-point line, and went 9-11 from the free throw line.
Bringing this scoring power into the 2018-2019 Sun Belt Conference Tournament, Louisiana looked for Russell in the last seconds of the game against South Alabama. Coach Marlin was feeling confident in a play drawn up after the timeout, with former assist-man Marcus Stroman deciding who would get the last second shot. Russell the only free one in the desperate minutes confidently shot the ball but missed.
Russell now in his junior offseason with a new team has not forgotten about that missed shot. Instead of blaming himself for the cause of Louisiana’s finale, Russell says he is most appreciative of that defining moment. Moving forward from that moment is something he credits his mother for, as she defeated breast cancer.
“I feel that is where a lot of my endurance and my push comes from because she survived breast cancer on her own, she had the strength to do that,” Russell said. “So breaking a foot cannot compare to what she can do, if she didn’t quit why should I?”
Now, looking to be a leader of the 2019-2020 Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team, the self- proclaimed “old soul” of the group is currently looking to step more into the point guard role as a facilitator of this young offense.
“It’s going to be fun for sure. I’m not worried since it’s so early, guys are still learning the plays. But talent wise and potential wise, we will be okay.”
“The last two offseasons I was focused on grinding and separating myself, but this offseason I am putting myself on the back burner and making sure guys are comfortable in what coach is asking of them,” Russell said.
Russell’s confidence is not wavered by the new faces on the team. Instead, he is embracing the talent among him, understanding that he will be looked upon in the upcoming season. With his newfound appreciation for the loss in the Sun Belt Tournament, his new role, and his new team.
“I’ve been a scorer my whole life,” Russell said. “The highs and the lows have made me the player and man I am today. My outlook for next season is different from last season. I don’t regret taking that shot, and I can live with it, but I will never forget it.”
Cedric Russell is ready for a new season and the opportunity to take another shot at the Sun Belt.