#23 / Forward / Washington St. Cougars
Undecided, as budget cuts forced WSU to drop the shot-blocking major
"He's screaming his own name!"
Those words, spoken by some other fan in my section of the ZZU CRU, told me one thing: DeAngelo Casto had arrived.
And sure enough, Casto was the catalyst for the Cougars' first Pac-10 conference win last winter. To refresh your memory: Stanford came into Pullman somewhat highly touted last January, boasting an 11-2 record that was among the best in the Pac-10 (albeit against a cupcake schedule). The Cougs, meanwhile, had a rough start to the Pac-10 slate, getting bombed by 20 against Washington in an underattended Winter Break rivalry game, then falling to perennial nemesis Patrick Christopher and California. WSU needed a win in the worst way to avoid starting 0-3.
After a rough first half, Tony Bennett decided to go young late in the game. Baynes and Rochestie were unavoidable selections, as they always were last season. But for the other three, Bennett went with Klay Thompson (obvious), Abe Lodwick (less obvious), and a relatively untested DeAngelo Casto. The three were key to the Cougars' second half comeback that erased a deficit that was as large as eleven in the first half. Sure, there was this:
...but as you may also remember, it was Casto that saved the game. After Taylor Rochestie's runner-off-the-glass to give WSU the lead with 17 seconds left, Stanford had plenty of time for their last chance. The always dangerous Anthony Goods drove the lane and went straight to the basket.
Casto had grabbed his own rebound and snuffed out Stanford's best shot at a win. Sure, he missed the two ensuing free throws and gave Stanford another long shot at a win, but Casto had arrived on the big stage. I'm not really sure he was screaming his own name - it could've been something else - but based on the fact the crowd was doing it, and going crazy in the process, I'm pretty sure he was. Cool moment.
As for the remainder of the year:
|2008 - DeAngelo Casto||33||16.1||1.6||2.9||55.8||0.0||0.0||0.0||1.2||1.8||64.4||1.3||2.7||4.0||0.5||1.1||0.4||1.2||1.6||4.4|
For someone that made such a defensive impact last year, Casto didn't see the floor as much as you'd have thought. In those 16.1 minutes per game, though, he was prominent in a few statistical categories, and anemic in others. We know he's a great shot blocker: Casto was ranked 41st nationally with an 8.9 block%. We also know he's a powerful offensive rebounder: in a Bennett system that de-emphasizes crashing the offensive glass in favor of tranisition, 1.3 of Casto's 4.0 boards per game were of the offensive variety. But he's also an underrated defensive rebounder - ranked 125th nationally in DR%. And while he struggled mightily from the free throw line early on, he gradually improved into 2009, finishing with a decent if not world-beating 64.4%. A far cry from his 0-for-2 in the final moments against Stanford.
A lot of people are mystified by Ken Bone's comments that Casto is a "poor man's Jon Brockman". Count me among them. Sure, the rebounding prowess is comparable, but Brockman finished last season as a far more powerful scorer, while being much better at protecting the ball than Casto. It's not that I think Casto can't someday arrive at Brockman's level offensively - he certainly can - but Brockman has nothing on Casto defensively, and Casto has nothing on Brockman at the other end. Brockman couldn't block shots, and won't ever be the low post defender that we believe Casto will be. Casto goes long stretches without scoring, and needs to be more aggressive getting to the hoop and drawing fouls. Comparing the two isn't an extreme stretch, but it's still a stretch.
Best Case Scenario: DeAngelo Casto: defensive powerhouse and electric low-post scorer. We lose a ton of point production from last season in Taylor Rochestie and Aron Baynes. Casto picks up a huge chunk of the interior scoring - five to ten points per game - and provides a huge boost to our chances in 2010. Casto becomes a top 25 shot-blocker nationally, dominates the boards, and gives the Cougars 30 minutes or so of strength under the basket. He also becomes the Cougars' most consistent threat for a SportsCenter Top 10 play.
Worst Case Scenario: Casto is limited early on coming back from his knee injury, and then later on by a rough transition to Bone's system. He puts up numbers comparable to last year, and despite getting more minutes and points, his field goal percentage suffers, and he isn't powerful enough on the boards to keep the Cougs from getting demolished by bigger opponents.
Likely Scenario: Casto is still the great defensive player he has been, and becomes more polished on defense. He fills some of the void left behind by Aron Baynes, but still needs help from James Watson and Brock Motum. People start to take Casto seriously as a rebounding threat, he makes the all-conference defensive team and has an outside shot at second team All Pac-10.
Poll time now. Option #4 is for Husky fans.