Coming off a national championship, the question for the UConn men’s basketball program should naturally be, “what’s next?” Who is going to replace the offensive production of players like Jordan Hawkins, an NBA lottery pick? Who can be an excellent playmaker like Andre Jackson Jr.? While the Huskies will be getting back the talents of Tristen Newton, an essential part of their championship backcourt, a young Georgia combo guard will also be coming in to play a huge role for the new-look Huskies.
In the minds of everyone that’s kept up with UConn over another eventful offseason, there should be no doubt that Stephon Castle has huge expectations. At 5:12 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2021 when he officially announced his commitment to join the Huskies, fans jumped for joy for a reason. He was the first piece–and ultimately the biggest–in a class filled to the brink with talent. He’s shown plenty of potential to not only be a potential one-and-done player at the college level, but also an addition to the wall of Huskies lottery picks.
After a long two years of waiting, UConn fans are close to seeing the potential next UConn great. Until then, he’s had time to get even better and build on the hype that made him a highly touted prospect in the first place. As a junior at Newton High School, he averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game and his statistics only climbed from there. 2022 saw his season averages climb to 20.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, three steals and two blocks per game as national audiences became even more intrigued by what Castle could do at the next level. A 41-point highlight performance against Duncanville High School, one of the top teams in high school basketball, truly cemented Castle’s place as not only a special prospect, but also one with NBA potential. When you add a McDonald’s All-American selection and a FIBA Team USA U18 gold medal in Mexico to all that he’s accomplished, that’s quite the resume before even stepping on a college court.
With that being said, that’s just one piece of the puzzle to this five star guard. It’s not just the accolades that make him stand out. To truly understand why the Georgia native is such a pivotal piece to a talented roster of Huskies, you have to see him in action.
The first thing to discuss when it comes to Castle is his playmaking. As a player who’s expected to step in as an immediate starter as a true freshman, he has shown the skills that are necessary to play at the next level at an elite rate. In high school, he used his build to dominate at the point guard spot and find his teammates across the hardwood. Whether that was on the court at Newton High School or the spotlight of the 2023 McDonald’s All American Game, Castle saw his stock rise as he dazzled scouts with his elite playmaking. When you combine that with a roster that includes players like his fellow guards or even Donovan Clingan at the five spot, that’s a sight that’s going to make any opposing lineup shake in their boots.
On top of that, Castle has been a force in the paint by using that 6-foot-6-inch frame to net impressive finishes over opposing defenders. He’s able to take contact while possessing a touch for superb finishes. It’s helped make him one of the toughest players to crack across all of high school basketball, especially when he was going up against smaller guards. While he’s going to face bigger and tougher opponents at the college level, he’s naturally going to develop in a Dan Hurley system and make the necessary additions to his game to get even better.
While we’re on the topic of Castle’s build, it has also made him an excellent defender. If you needed any more proof than his senior averages of three steals and two blocks per game in high school, a quick glance at some tape can tell you that he’s a quality defender that will only get better in a UConn system that has prided itself on hard-nosed defense under coach Hurley. While he did play in a system in high school that required him to be more of an off-ball defender, I have faith that he can make the adjustment to a system that will require more on-ball action from him.
A big knock on Castle’s game is his explosiveness on getting to the rim and he’s going to need to improve on that if he truly wants to reach his full potential as a scorer, but it’s certainly not the worst problem to have with the multitude of positives that he brings to the table as a scorer and defender.
Fast forward to now, where does Castle fit with the Huskies next season? He possesses the build to play both the one and two guard, but he’ll potentially be expected to play the three with talented recruit Cam Spencer transferring to the Huskies from Rutgers and Tristen Newton returning for another season in Storrs. That’s massive for a lineup that is potentially be looking for answers after two key pieces of their starting rotation departed for the next level.
The work is certainly not going to be cut out for UConn’s star freshman, but there’s plenty of reasons why Castle will be a special player in Storrs. If you’re not intrigued by this article, his high school film or even UConn’s international trip during the summer where the Georgia native consistently dropped double-digit scoring numbers, you’ll just have to see what he can do later this year against college competition.