He said if Hillgrove was going to improve, he needed to improve.
The first goal was to get stronger physically. He started becoming a regular in the weight room 2 weeks after the season ended and was there frequently until the beginning of this season.
Another was to shoot from all areas of the court, which made him a regular in the gym. He could make layups and shoot 3s last year, but this year he wanted to be a steady mid-range shooter as well. He also added ball-handling drills to his practice itinerary.
“He’s always working to get better,” Hillgrove coach Ed Morris said. “He’s improved his ball-handling and he’s improved his 3-point shot. Those are two things he really wanted to do for us to go to the next level.”
His numbers are up from last season when he averaged 18.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game en route to being named Marietta Daily Journal Player of the Year.
Castlin, who will play his college basketball for Columbia in the Ivy League, is now averaging 21.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He’s got the best free throw percentage in Cobb County at 80 percent and is shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range.
Hillgrove is also benefiting from his improvement with a 15-4 record to start the regular season. The Hawks were on a seven-game winning streak, five of them coming against Region 4AAAAAA opponents, before losing 69-65 in overtime to Greater Atlanta Christian on Monday.
A few highlights have included a 25-point game in a win over Peachtree Ridge at the beginning of the season. Castlin finished with 15 in a 51-47 win over Region 4AAAAAA leader McEachern, and he had a 19-point game in a 74-64 win over vastly-improved Pebblebrook.
Castlin, a 6-foot-3 forward, also has added responsibility on defense from a year ago and that’s to guarding the opposing team’s best player.
“It’s going well and I like the challenge,” Castlin said. “When I guard the other team’s best player, he usually wants to guard me right back. I feel it helps me prepare for college.”
No longer having to worry about recruiting has also helped his game.
After getting offers from Boston University, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Jacksonville, Mercer and Wofford, Castlin chose Columbia for its academics and guaranteed spot on the basketball team. Because it’s an Ivy League school, Columbia isn’t allowed to offer athletic scholarships.
“Columbia came in the middle of the recruiting process and I never heard of them until they offered me an (academic) scholarship,” said Castlin, who has a 4.02 GPA. “I found out that it was Ivy League school and one of the top five academic schools in the nation. I got the best of both worlds.”
He said he would likely play a similar style of basketball as he does at Hillgrove – posting up on offense and help limit teams to one shot on defense – and he would have a chance to contribute right away at Columbia.
“Nothing’s a promise, but I’ve watched their practices and I can see places where I can fit right away,” Castlin. “I’m confident that I can see some playing time soon.”