EAST LANSING – Cassius Winston put it out there for the world to see. Twice.
After winning the Hall Schram Mr. Basketball award Monday, Winston said he wouldn’t consider his high school career successful unless he won a state championship, a pledge he reiterated after the semifinals.
It was as if the 6-foot senior guard was daring himself to win a state championship — or else — because there was no way he could possibly take back what he had said about success and the state title.
Winston won’t need to worry about that after turning in one of the most memorable performances in championship game history Saturday, scoring 31 points with nine assists in giving U-D Jesuit its first state title in a 69-49 rout of North Farmington.
More than 20 high school players have scored more points in a championship game than Winston, but none was more efficient.
Winston nailed an amazing 14 of 16 shots on the Breslin Center court, which will be his home court in a few months.
“The past couple of times it didn’t look too good on this floor,” he said. “But today I got it going.”
This was Winston’s third trip to Class A’s final four, but the two previous trips ended with semifinal losses. That is why Winston made it his mission to work with his teammates to bring their game up to his level — and it worked marvelously.
Winston wanted to be sure teams could not solely focus on him. Saturday, he was able to find the creases in the defense and exploited them with breathtaking drives to the basket.
“They definitely spaced it out a little bit more,” Winston said. “There were a lot of open lanes. Again, that’s a credit to our team. Last year we didn’t have as many dudes that could score the basketball, so everyone would be waiting in the paint for me.”
Winston didn’t know he was going to wind up with 31 points, but he knew he was going to play well.
“I was just out there kind of playing basketball and it just happened that way,” he said. “A lot of my shots were going to the basket, a lot of open lay-ups, so it was kind of pretty easy.”
He is the kind of player who can make a game look easy. Although he does have to twist his body when he takes the ball to the basket against the big guys in the paint, Winston doesn’t do anything looking for style points.
If a comparison is needed, think of the way B.J. Armstrong played for Birmingham Brother Rice in the mid-1980s before he went off to Iowa and then the Chicago Bulls. There were no frills to Armstrong’s game, just tremendous basic fundamentals.
That is Winston’s game, too, and he is mature beyond his years. He has a perspective most high school students can’t match, which is why he put the pressure on himself to win a state title.
“Almost every goal I set I’ve accomplished,” he said. “This, right here, I’ve had a successful high school career with a state championship.”
Winston didn’t back away from his proclamation that his high school career would have come up short had the Cubs lost Saturday.
“I believe that in order for you to say that you were one of the best high school players or whatever …” he said. “I may not be one of the best, but to say you had a complete successful high school career you have to win championships.”
Not only did Winston have a complete successful career, he is one of the best high school players. Ever.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1