Three-star high school guard Lorenzo “LJ” Cason knew he wanted to join Florida Atlantic’s 2024 recruiting class the first time he saw the Owls in person.
“FAU played the hardest,” he said. “It was off the charts. The players, it looked like they were playing for a Final Four game or championship game.”
This wasn’t last March, though. Cason was watching a summer workout on his official visit.
“It was entertaining to watch them practice,” said Cason, a 6-foot-3 point guard who plays for Lakeland Victory Christian Academy. “It just blew my mind. It was hard to not want to be a part of that. Anyone who’d see that would want to be a part of that. That was the big separator.”
Cason committed to FAU on Aug. 4, two days after his visit to Boca Raton. He’d previously officially visited Murray State but canceled a visit to Seton Hall after his FAU experience. That effectively ended a recruiting process just as schools were starting to show more interest. Luckily for FAU, Dusty May's staff already had built a decent relationship with Cason by the time he unexpectedly wowed Power 5 coaches at a high school team camp at Gainesville in June.
“That’s when everyone started realizing what I’ve been saying,” said Cason’s AAU coach, Darryl Hardin of 1Family: “I think he’s the best guard in the state.”
“After the Gainesville trip, Florida, Florida State, Seton Hall—some of the Power 5 schools—started recruiting him harder,” Hardin said. “He took an unofficial (visit to UF) to check it out, but I think in his mind he already was leaning to the opportunity with Dusty. He just kinda shut it down. If he’d have kept it open, I think there would have been more bigger schools in on his recruitment.”
More on that camp later. In the meantime, what kind of player is LJ Cason? Here’s what his present and future coaches say.
- May called him “a throwback to point guards who know when to pass, when to shoot, when to drive, when to create” and “a coach on the floor.”
- Cason’s high school coach at Victory Christian, Steve Fitzgerald, called him “a low-maintenance superstar” who’s “college-ready body-wise, is a high IQ player (and) understands what the team needs every given day.”
- Hardin, the super-successful longtime AAU coach whose team this summer included five-star Georgia signee Asa Newell, UF signee Isaiah Brown and a host of other D-I signees and prospects, said he “never felt we were going to lose a game LJ played in.”
Here’s what the numbers and data say:
As a junior at VCA, Cason averaged 27.6 points, 8 rebounds and 5.8 assists. He had 57-, 45- and 41-point games as a junior and two 40-pointers as a sophomore. In 13 games so far this season against a significantly tougher schedule, he’s averaging 24.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists. VCA was 18-10 his sophomore year and reached the Class 2A region semis. Last year, the Storm went 24-6 and went to the region final. This summer, 1Family went 43-3 and won the Pro 16 League championship.
But maybe most instructive, here’s who Cason models himself after, and what that says:
“Going into high school, and to this day, my favorite player is Collin Sexton.”
Don’t know much about Collin Sexton? Google him, watch a few social media vids of the Utah Jazz guard—and prepare to be entertained. It’s complimentary to describe a basketball player as having a high-motor. Lorenzo Cason models his game after someone driven by a hypersonic engine. You want a point guard who can control a game with the ball in his hands? Cason’s always on the attack. You want a defender who will take charges? Cason’s led his high school team in that category for two years. He simply aspires to be relentless on offense and defense, like his idol. He refuses to give up on any play—or for that matter, on any goal. More on that later, too.
“I want to play just like him,” Cason said. “I realize a lot of guys aren’t a 'dog' at both ends. They’re a dog on offense but not at the other end. I watch him and he’s just so energetic. I love his game.”
Which leads to an interesting thing about Cason. “I feel like I have two personalities,” he said. In conversation, he’s friendly and naturally polite, all yes sirs. Yet in basketball—and competition in general—he sees himself as “LJ the Dog.”
And in big moments, when emulating his idol has maximum impact, Cason has shown a history of going Full Collin.
There was the time last January he went Full Collin to lead VCA—high school population less than 200—to a 93-87 regular-season upset of Class 5A Auburndale. Cason had scored 15 first-half points in a game that still seemed ordinary early in the third quarter. “And then I dunked on a 6-9 big and I was just hyped,” he said. “And after I that was just energetic and in that zone. It felt like I was shooting in my backyard.” The result was a 42-point second half, en route to 57. “Not only was he making the right plays, but the rim seemed just huge to him,” Fitzgerald said. “The crazy thing is they were a very good team and we needed all those points to win.”
There was the time a few weeks later that he went Full Collin in the closing minute against fellow Class 2A power Clearwater Calvary Christian. First he got knocked down as he hit “a crazy and-one” to help VCA close to within 63-62 with 8 seconds left. (“I thought it was an airball,” he said. “I got up and everyone was cheering.”)
Still needing a quick turnover, VCA full-court pressed and got what it wanted—an inbounds lob past the 3-point line that was arched enough for Cason to spring back and tip it. A teammate grabbed the ball and quickly slipped it back to Cason, who drove the left side of the lane. At the basket, Cason encountered the Calvary player who’d inbounded the ball, waiting with arms outstretched ready to knock the ball out of his hands on the way up. In a flash, Cason admitted having two thoughts:
1. “it was a weird angle. I saw his hands. I’m not gonna lie. I didn’t think I would score. I kind of let him tip it so I could grab it back.”
2. (Uh-oh. What if … ) “I thought he would swat it across the court.”
Happily for Cason, the defender tipped the ball directly into his hands, and in one motion he caught it pushed it back up for the go-ahead basket with 1.5 seconds left.
Then there was the time he even went Full Collin on his SATs. Though standardized tests no longer are part of NCAA admission requirements, Cason thought he could have done better. When he decided to retake the test, Fitzgerald suggested he incentivize it by setting a stretch goal. His second test score was higher than the first but still short of his new goal. So he took it a third time and nailed it. “He probably was as happy about that as scoring 57,” Fitzgerald said.
The way Cason looks at it, if you’re going to be a dog, why limit the mindset to basketball? “I try to live my life every day like I do on the court,” he said. “It’s like the last shot. I want to take it until I make it. So why not take the test until I make the score? That’s how I live life. I don’t like giving up on things.”
Finally—and most crucially to his recruitment and college future—there was the time he went Full Collin last June at the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches team camp. VCA won all four games at the camp, two against reigning state champions, and by all accounts Cason was otherworldly. Because of a new recruiting rule this year, college coaches were allowed to watch. They saw a different player than they saw scouting 1Family AAU games.
“Asa (Newell) always brought attention to 1Family. So coaches who would see me, they saw me in a backup role—a role player, just making the right play,” Cason said. “I always play hard and stuff, and they always saw me doing the right things, but they never saw LJ the Dog. … That was the moment. They saw I could play a role and also be a main player and control everything.“
The FAU staff already had been developing a rapport with Cason, led by assistant coach Kyle Church. May had become personally enamored of him in the spring when he scouted an AAU tournament. But after the FABC camp, the Owls head coach decided to go all in. “Man,” he remembered thinking, “this is one guy we have to have.” (By the way, that AAU tournament is where May first noticed Ty Robinson, another 2024 signee. Robinson’s team upset 1Family that day, so Cason clearly noticed Robinson, too: “Man, he lit us up. His shot is ridiculous,” Cason said. “I feel like anytime he’s open I’m definitely getting him the ball.”)
Cason has an advantage not guaranteed to all top high school players: A high school coach and AAU coach who have had the same vision for his development. Fitzgerald and Hardin both want him to read the game and apply himself to what the team needs. In high school, that usually means looking to score a little more. In AAU, it usually meant looking to share a little more. May appreciates the blend.
“He’s much more assertive for his high school team,” May said. “On 1Family he’s assertive when he needs to be, but they obviously just have so many good players. We love it when guys we sign play well with other really good players. It shows they don’t need the ball in their hand the entire time. They know how to play off each other. We thought both of those experiences would expedite his process.”
Hardin, who has crossed paths in recruiting with May since the FAU coach’s days as an assistant with Louisiana Tech, understands why Cason chose May and FAU: “The opportunity to impact early as well as Dusty’s personality and plan for him.”
Hardin also wouldn’t be surprised if May will be richly rewarded for winning the recruitment.
“If LJ’s doing what we believe he’ll be doing and just keeps growing, he’ll be a (conference) Player of the Year type,” he said. “He wants to win. That’s all he really cares about. I think the winning will continue at FAU with the ball in his hands.”