There’s rarely a day goes by that Sean Cusano doesn’t check in with some of his best buds back in Big Stone Gap.
He might rattle off a text message to Peyton Honeycutt or call Carson Ray to find out what’s new and to swap some basketball war stories.
Cusano moved to South Carolina from Southwest Virginia following his sophomore season at Union High School in 2021 and while it wasn’t easy to relocate some seven hours away from the area he grew up in he has certainly made himself at home on the hardwood for the Hilton Head Prep Dolphins.
At last check he was averaging 22.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 assists for the school that is a member of the South Carolina Independent School Association and he has signed to continue his hoops career with Chattanooga of the NCAA Division I Southern Conference.
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Now 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds, Cusano has gotten better and better on the basketball court.
“The area I have most improved on is my post-up game since leaving [Union],” Cusano said.
His versatility and high basketball IQ were among the many reasons Cusano was on the radars of many DI programs. The guy can knock down shots from 3-point range or battle on the low block and was shooting 52.8 percent from the field through the first 15 games of the season.
“Sean has terrific length and skill as a face-up big in today’s game,” said Hilton Head Prep coach Richard Barron. “He has really worked hard to develop his low post play this year and has established his presence at the rim. He has an even-keeled demeanor and has been a joy to coach. I wish we had him for longer but know he has a bright future at the next level.”
The Dolphins entered Thursday’s contest against Beaufort Academy with an 8-7 record with about three weeks left in the regular season.
“Our season so far has been a little rough. We have lost a lot of close games this season, but we are trending in the right direction,” Cusano said. “The competition down here is pretty similar to the Mountain 7 District.”
Cusano had 24 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in a 62-47 win over the East Rockingham Eagles (led by current University of North Carolina freshman small forward Tyler Nickel) in the 2021 VHSL Class 2 state finals, a game that was held in front of a sparse crowd in Union High School’s gym due to COVID-19 protocols.
The then-sophomore knocked down four 3-pointers in the first quarter to help the Bears seize momentum they never relinquished. It turned out to be his final game in a Union uniform as his family moved three months later when Cusano’s father, Matt, got a job in Hilton Head.
“It was extremely tough to leave Union,” Cusano said. “Everyone I know is there. … The 2021 season is something I will always remember, not only for winning state but also for having all the restrictions we had for COVID. My favorite memory was probably being on the fire truck and driving through town after winning.”
Cusano will return to the area next year when Chattanooga plays at SoCon rival East Tennessee State University. Sean appeared destined to play college basketball.
That’s because both of his older siblings played sports at the next level.
His older brother, Derrick Cusano, was a hooper at Montreat College in North Carolina.
His older sister, Ashley Cusano, is currently a swimmer at North Carolina State University.
Sean Cusano’s DI dreams will come true next season.
“I took a visit to Chattanooga and I really loved the facilities, the coaching staff was great and I enjoyed talking to the players there,” Cusano said. “I also felt that their style of play fit me really well.”
A large number of folks from Southwest Virginia are tracking his progress.
“What Sean has accomplished is no surprise,” said Union coach Zack Moore. “He’s always been big, talented, and has the work ethic it takes to make it to that level. I’m proud he’s been able to reach his dream, because I know how hard he’s worked.
“We keep up with him and want to see him do great things. It is tough knowing we could have had him in our program the last two years and how it would have changed our team, but we wish him nothing but the best. He was really good for us for two years, including a memorable state championship game performance.”
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