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DeAngelo Casto, The NBA Draft And Forming An Understanding

DeAngelo Casto won't be doing this in a Cougar uniform anymore after entering the 2011 NBA Draft.
DeAngelo Casto won't be doing this in a Cougar uniform anymore after entering the 2011 NBA Draft.

I've been asked many times why DeAngelo Casto declared for the NBA Draft. Casto is a long-shot to be drafted, even in the best-case scenario, and choosing to go the professional route has left many scratching their heads. Why not get an education, use another year to develop and make the Cougs better as a team in the immediate? For the most part, I think some of the criticism comes from the third point: We want our team to succeed, Casto helps it succeed, so we want Casto to stay. But it's not that simple.

To put it plainly, most of us will never understand Casto's rationale, nor will his decision make sense. Where one sees education and a degree as valuable, another differs. Casto does not come from a middle class family or anything resembling an ideal childhood. He's bounced from place-to-place and fended for himself, but found success using the gifts he was blessed with. Basketball has been his way out and is the one thing he's been able to rely on as he progresses through each stage of life.

It makes sense that basketball, not an education, is what he's leaning on to move into the next stage of his life.

I've been thinking about this for quite some time and, after talking to my co-authors, I decided to run with it. Many of these thoughts are my own, but I received some very helpful input from Craig Powers, who has an excellent amount of insight into youth with tough backgrounds.

DeAngelo Casto is a product of the system -- the foster system, to be exact. He's bounced around from year-to-year, never staying in one place for a considerable length. His mother died when he was seven and he entered into a life of turmoil and various living arrangements in the foster system. Even after moving to Washington, Casto never stayed in one place for too long.

His high school career is a prime example. Casto spent his freshman year at Freeman, his sophomore and junior years at Ferris and bounced from Franklin to Ferris his senior year, all while changing living environments along the way. He'd stay with teammates, Stacy Casto, the foster mother who brought him to Washington, and even a Ferris assistant coach. To say stability was lacking would be a gross understatement.

But Casto was given a chance as Tony Bennett sold him on a family environment in Pullman and lured him to Washington State. Casto qualified, joined the team and entered the fold right away. Fans fell in love with the powerful kid from Spokane and envisioned a dominant post with a mean-streak. In many ways, he's realized that potential and become a catalyst for the Washington State team along the way. Leaving hurts the fans, all of which want to see success each and every year.

Tony Bennett left following Casto's freshman year. It was Bennett who sold recruits on a family environment while extolling the virtues of Pullman and its close-knit community. He walked out and left the family behind, stinging the team and fanbase all at once. And Casto, more than anyone else, was sold on Washington State as a family-like atmosphere, something he never had with regularity growing up. Bennett left, Casto lost the head of the household and, to an outsider, it feels like the story repeating itself for the young center from Spokane. Bennett did what was best for him and his professional career, but it may have had an affect on Casto, the person who needed family the most.

There's a nomadic way about DeAngelo Casto that's been present throughout his life. He bounces around, never takes root in one place and slips away when its time to leave. It happened again this week as he took off for Las Vegas, packing his things and moving on again.

So while we preach education and realizing future earnings over immediate gratification, it comes from our own backgrounds, not his. The fact Casto has made it this far -- through almost three years of school and on the cusp of a professional career -- is amazing considering his background. But for him, it's time to move on to the next stage.

We can wag a finger at Casto and say he's getting bad advice, but we'll never truly understand. He needs money, has no family to lean on and has always marched to the beat of his own drum. We can criticize some of the decisions he's made in the past, but we can't understand how Casto thinks without walking in his shoes.

Casto is already a success story, no matter what happens in his professional career. It's been a joy to watch him grow during his three years at Washington State and I'll still root for him, wherever he may end up. He's doing what's best for himself and I don't think any of us can begrudge him for it after all he's given the team and school over the past three years.