Cassius Winston’s parents, Wendi and Reginald Winston, have watched their son blossom into one of the best guards in college basketball. Cassius’ dad, Reg, discussed what it is like to see his son’s growth on and off the court.
“From when they’re little and they do the things that bring a big smile to your face to the point where he’s developed into a young man,” Reg told The Detroit News. “Just to see that where he’s come from and where he’s going, I’m just a proud father. Extremely proud.”
Cassius’ mom, Wendi, is a Delta flight attendant, per SB Nation. She recently made headlines after a photo of a backpack she brought home for Cassius from a trip went viral.
Learn more about Cassius’ family.
1. Cassius Was Almost Named Hannibal
Cassius’ father was looking for a strong name for their baby. If the couple had a boy, Reg picked out the name Hannibal, much to the dismay of Wendi. Ultimately, Reg lost the battle as Lansing State Journal detailed.
Reg had read stories about Hannibal, the general and statesman from ancient Carthage who is widely considered one of the greatest military strategists in history. That Hannibal famously marched 37 African battle elephants through the Alps during the invasion of the Roman Republic at the start of the Second Punic War.
Reg sang lullabies to baby Hannibal when his wife, Wendi, was pregnant. He told baby Hannibal stories. And on Mother’s Day, he gave his wife a card, signed by baby Hannibal.
“We were just looking for a strong name,” Reg said. “When you say it, you’re proud to say it. When people hear it, they remember it.”
Wendi was all for a strong name. But, um, maybe not one that made people think about that other Hannibal from “Silence of the Lambs” – the one who, you know, ate people!
“He could not be Hannibal Lecter,” Wendi said. “I just prayed for a girl.”
2. Cassius’ Mom, Wendi, Initially Thought Tom Izzo’s Meeting Was a Sales Pitch
When Tom Izzo first watched Cassius play as a freshman, it was not a guarantee that he was headed to East Lansing. Cassius’ mom was a bit skeptical over what the Michigan State head coach was telling her son.
“I thought it was a sales pitch, to be honest with you. I mean my kid was a freshman in high school,” Wendi told SB Nation.
Sales pitch aside, Izzo felt Cassius could have what it takes to be the future leader of his offense. Izzo believed Cassius’ knowledge of the game was rare.
“When I first saw Cassius I thought he might be one of the most cerebral basketball players I‘ve ever seen,” Izzo noted to SB Nation. “I actually thought that he could be the best point guard ever at MSU or at a lot of other places. My point guards over the years, Mateen (Cleaves), Kalin (Lucas), Denzel (Valentine)… all were wired a little differently. But I can honestly say none of them had a higher basketball IQ than this guy.”
3. Cassius’ Dad, Reg, Is a Former High School Football Coach
Cassius’ father played a big role in his development as a basketball player. As a former high school football coach, Reg incorporated some of his football drills to get Cassius prepared for playing through contact on the court.
“He couldn’t get the ball up half court,” Reg told Lansing State Journal. “He was just getting his (butt) kicked. When we came back home, we decided, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this for real.”
The Lansing State Journal detailed the father and son’s regimen.
The father of three used to coach football at Renaissance High School on a field surrounded by a track. While pads cracked, Reg told Cassius to dribble around the track. Four times with his right hand. Four times with his left hand. Now crossover. Before he knew it, the kid ran a couple miles just from dribbling the ball.
As Cassius got older, Reg told him to make 500 shots a day. Not shoot 500. Make them. Even in games, Reg would find ways to make it a game-within-a game. Maybe Cassius couldn’t shoot for the entire first quarter to help him learn to get others involved. Another game, Cassius could only dribble with his left hand.
4. Cassius Has 2 Brothers Who Also Play Basketball
Cassius has two brothers, Zachary and Khy, who both play basketball, per The Washington Post. Zachary is a freshman at Albion College, while Khy is entering the final months of high school. This means Reg and Wendi have a busy schedule trying to keep up with all of their games as The Washington Post detailed.
All three Winston brothers — Cassius, Zachary (a freshman at Albion College) and Khy (a senior in high school) — play basketball, and the family has poster-sized calendars on the kitchen wall to keep track of game schedules. Starting with Michigan State’s game against Maryland, a Winston brother plays every day this week.
5. Tourists Once Started Throwing Money at Cassius at a Theme Park Thanks to His Dribbling Skills
One popular story about Cassius’ childhood is a family trip to Six Flags. Cassius found a basketball and began dribbling at the theme park. His dribbling skills were so good that people started throwing money at him as they thought he was performing.
“That’s why some of the stuff he does that looks naturally gifted to some people, they just really haven’t seen all the time that he spent developing,” Reg explained to The Washington Post.