Men's Basketball: Louisiana guard Cedric Russell left Alexandria Peabody with mom's wise words
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Feb. 20, 2021
But the senior guard has grown a lot.
“He’s been around for a long time,” basketball operations director Mike Murphy said of Russell, ranked by ESPN.com as Louisiana’s No. 5 prospect coming out of Peabody.
“Ced is a fairly quiet individual. He really keeps to himself. But the players really respect what he does. The staff knows they can count on him to be there when it’s needed.”
It’s a wiser Russell than the one who arrived with a glowing resume from Peabody, where he was named state championship game MVP after scoring 22 points and leading the 38-3 Warhorses to the 2017 Class 3A title.
UL’s two weekend games against Texas-Arlington were postponed due to winter weather; the two teams will play one game instead on Monday (5 p.m., ESPN).
“He’s done a really good job for this team,” Marlin said, “and they really look for him to provide leadership.”
In Russell’s case, however, it’s more about seeing it than hearing it.
“Growing up, I never was the type to be … the more yelling, screaming-type leader,” he said. “I just always … tried to lead by example more.
“I feel like, especially nowadays, a lot of people talk the talk but have to walk the walk as well.”
Otherwise there’s no credibility, a reality Russell learned long before becoming a Cajun.
“That’s one thing my mom (Felisa Russell) always instilled in me, is that you can talk until you’re blue in the face but if you’re not practicing what you preach it’s kind of irrelevant,” he said.
“So that was my strategy of getting guys to follow me, is I always tried to do the right thing rather than say the right thing.”
He's among Sun Belt scoring leaders
Leadership success can be difficult to measure. But simple stats show Russell’s on-court trajectory.
He averaged 5.7 points per game and led UL in 3-point percentage as a freshman, when the Cajuns won the Sun Belt’s regular-season title and Russell scored 10 points in a first-round NIT loss at LSU.
Since then his average has risen to 9.7 ppg as a sophomore, 14.4 as a junior and 17.8 this season.
Earlier this month, after averaging 22.5 points in two wins at Texas State, Russell was named Sun Belt Player of the Week. As of Thursday, he ranked third among SBC scoring leaders behind South Alabama’s Michael Flowers (21.2) and Coastal Carolina’s DeVante Jones (20.6).
Currently 27th with 1,336 points, he’s within reach of moving into the top 25 on UL’s all-time scoring leaders list. Russell has also 250 career 3-pointers, four shy of passing Sidney Grider for second among UL’s career leaders.
More importantly, attitude separates Russell.
“He wants the ball in his hands when you have to be at your best. … And that’s a special thing,” Murphy said. “Not a lot of athletes want to do that. Some run from it. He doesn’t.”
Russell wants it no other way
It’s been like that a while.
One of his favorite memories is from his early years at Peabody, when his AAU team was playing at a national tournament in Memphis. Russell retrieved a rolling inbounds pass and banked in a game-winner from halfcourt.
Things don’t always turn out so well.
His UL sophomore season ended when Russell missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer in a 70-69 Sun Belt Tournament loss to South Alabama in New Orleans.
A year later:Russell, Cajuns erase a bad memory with Sun Belt win
“I practiced that shot 10 times over, then (after) that game I made that exact same shot 10 times,” he said. “It just didn’t fall that day. … But I don’t want to forget it.
“I missed it, and I use it as fire to come back and continue to take those shots and make those shots at a high level.”
Some fall, so don’t. Whatever happens, Russell is motivated by it.
“I try to embrace it,” he said, “because I believe in a higher power and I believe everything happens for a reason.
“Things don’t always go good, and they don’t always go as planned. But being the leader at the forefront of things, that’s something you’re just gonna have to deal with.”
It’s a responsibility Russell willingly shoulders for the Cajuns, whose three-game losing streak ended with a Feb. 13 win at UL Monroe.
For how much longer, however, is uncertain.
He and juco transfer Gueye have the option of returning with an extra season of NCAA eligibility granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Russell said he won’t decide anything for certain until talking with family.
“When that times comes,” he said, “we’re just gonna deal with it when we get there.”
Until then Russell’s focus is on the March 5-8 Sun Belt Tournament in Pensacola, Florida.
“I just hope I can continue to grow,” he said, “and continue to lead these guys to something special this March.”