The transition from high school to college can be difficult. The work load is tougher and the distractions are many. Some of the brightest students stumble a bit before getting their footing. Some never get up.
Cassi Amenta did not have that problem.
The 2011 St. Mary’s High graduate and member of two state championship teams as a Spartan hit the ground running when she arrived at Merrimack College and she never broke stride. She graduated this past spring and not only did she finish with a perfect 4.0 grade point average (that’s all A’s folks), she did it while balancing the demands of playing on the Division 2 women’s basketball team all four years.
Amenta’s dedication in the classroom didn’t start in college. She graduated fourth in her class at St. Mary’s and attended Merrimack on a full academic scholarship (she was a recipient of the O’Brien Scholarship, which covers tuition, room and board).
“I’m just really organized, I guess,” Amenta said when asked how she juggled her classroom and basketball commitments.
“I always had practices, games and school work to balance throughout high school, really since the fifth grade. It’s almost like this was just the next step,” Amenta said. “Once you get to college, you’re ready for it. You’re really committed to basketball. You learn how to handle things and how to make everything work.”
Amenta made the team as a walk-on her freshman year. At the Division 2 level, you’re still unpacking boxes in the fall when basketball kicks in.
“We start basketball two days after we move in,” Amenta said.
The preseason workouts are not for the late sleepers. Amenta said there were three preseason workouts a day. They would get up at 4:30 a.m. to do some lifting and conditioning. Later there would be skill work with the coaches and they would play pick-up every day. In season, in addition to the games, they would have practice, lift three times a week and have a “ton” of film sessions.
“We would have an away game, get back to campus at 1 a.m. then wake up for an 8 a.m. class and do it all over again,” Amenta said. “But you just kind of got into the swing of things and it was sort of second nature.”
Amenta said the full schedule probably helped her academics more than anything.
“I knew I only had a limited amount of time to do my work. I had to do it in those hours. If I didn’t have basketball, that might have been a problem,” she said, referring to the temptation of putting things off until the last minute.
Amenta was a triple major (sociology, criminology and women’s gender studies). She graduated summa cum laude and was also recognized with an award for having the highest grade point average in the sociology department. Amenta is taking the summer off before diving into a job hunt. She isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do, but it may be something like working with abused children or in a group home setting. She’s also considering pursuing a PhD.
“I’m still trying to figure it all out,” she said.
Merrimack women’s basketball coach Monique LeBlanc said Amenta was a model student-athlete throughout her four years.
“She was not only gifted academically, but she also took a lot of pride in her work,” LeBlanc said through an email. “The team definitely looked up to her as the ‘brainiac’ of the program and they followed her lead.”
LeBlanc said in the four years Amenta was in the program, Merrimack was ranked in the top 25 of all Division II teams in grade point average three times. The year they weren’t ranked the team had a 3.4 GPA and Amenta led the pack.
“She’s extremely organized and manages her time very well. In fact, I can recall several times that I asked Cassi to lead something or put something together for the team and she’d have it graphed and color-coded in no time. Cassi knew what it would take to do to get at 4.0 and she made sure to do that each and every semester.”
Amenta’s parents, Michael and Edith, w
ere at her graduation as was younger brother Nick, a 2015 graduate of St. Mary’s who will be playing lacrosse at LaSalle College. Her older brother, Vinny, is in the U.S. Army.
Amenta said one thing she is very grateful for is her scholarship.
“I’m so grateful that I got it,” she said. “My life is so different coming out of college debt free. I realize how privileged I am to be able to go to college in the first place. So many people don’t get to do that. For me to be able to go for free … I was very lucky to get that scholarship.”