DeAngelo Casto entered his name into the NBA Draft. (Icon SMI)
By Ryan Feldman
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA Draft passed on Sunday, and one surprising name not to withdraw was Washington State junior DeAngelo Casto.
When Casto announced on April 15 that he was leaving Washington State and entering the draft with an agent, many Cougars fans, and college basketball fans in general, were shocked. He was criticized on the internet by fans and media. People wondered why Casto, who was not projected as a likely NBA Draft pick, would forgo his senior year to enter the NBA Draft.
But those same people who criticized Casto's decision don't know his situation. They don't know what he's been through. They don't know what he has overcome to get where he is today.
Casto is already a success story. It's difficult to fathom what he has been through and overcome. After growing up without parents or a stable home life, bouncing from foster home to foster home, living in the poorest of conditions, and learning how to take care of himself at an early age, to earning a full college basketball scholarship, Casto's success is truly the ultimate story.
Now, trying to support his long-time girlfriend/future wife and his 10-month-old son, he was forced to focus on a professional basketball career, whether that means the NBA or an overseas contract.
"If I don't land in the NBA right away, an overseas look is not something that I'm opposed to," Casto said. "I know I'll get a shot to play in the NBA and I hope that they give me that chance to really show what I can do and play at the highest level. But I'm not opposed to playing overseas at all."
It wasn't a selfish decision whatsoever. It wasn't about taking advantage of stardom. It wasn't about not wanting to finish school. Casto's decision was about supporting his family. Throughout his entire life, Casto has had to figure out a way to get by. No matter what the circumstances, he figured it out and survived. Now, he has to once again figure it out.
This past weekend, Casto was one of 44 NBA prospects to participate in an NBA Draft Combine hosted by the New Jersey Nets in which all 30 NBA teams attended. Casto hoped to impress the NBA teams enough so that one of them will give a chance to live his dream of playing in the NBA.
"I already know I can play ," Casto said. "It's a matter of if someone else thinks I can play there. It's my job to prove I can do what they need me to do."
Casto hopes to prove to NBA teams that he is not only a capable basketball player but also a capable leader and team player.
"Hopefully, I'll get to prove myself and show that I'll be a great entity, I'll be a good guy you want in the locker room, I'll be a guy you want in the huddle, I won't be a distraction, and I'll be a team player that really buys into a philosophy," Casto said. "That's what I've done and that's how I carry myself."
If one team likes Casto – both the basketball player and the person – enough that he is able to hear his name called on June 23, it will be his crowning moment. It will signify that, throughout all the struggles and hardship, Casto has made it.
But the bright lights of the NBA are a long way removed from Casto's childhood, or lack thereof.
Casto originally grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri, where he had to mature quickly and learn how to take care of himself. His father was a "hustler" and he even sold Casto's mother into prostitution. His mother was constantly in debt for her drug addiction.
"At a young age I was forced to live outside of how old I was," Casto said. "Even at six, I remember having to go and steal food from the store because my mom and dad were really never around."
There wasn't always enough food to go around, so Casto often missed meals. When there was food, he was more concerned about letting his brother and sister eat first.
"We had to feed my sister through us eating," Casto said. "I would even take my food and chew it up and give it to her and put it in her mouth for her to eat as a meal. A lot of times I wouldn't be able to eat because I didn't get enough and my brother and sister would have to eat first."
The house was so poor that there was no actual bathroom.
"We didn't have a bathroom," Casto explained. "It was a shotgun house. You could see through the front door. You could see all the way through the kitchen to the back door. A lot of our windows were boarded up. We had no plumbing. Our bathroom was in my room. We actually dug a hole outside into the ground to the closet and that was pretty much our bathroom."
Casto's mother ended up getting too heavily into drugs and killed herself over it when he was seven years old. After that, Casto and his brother and sister went into the foster care system, where they constantly bounced from home to home for the next year.
When Casto was nine years old, a woman from Spokane named Stacy decided to adopt Casto and his brother and sister. But that wasn't a great situation at all. He lived with 15 other kids, which he now considers his brothers and sisters. It was not a stable environment whatsoever.
"That place is hard to talk about," Casto explained. "It wasn't the ideal place. It wasn't very supportive. Mentally and emotionally, I wasn't held together. Physically, I wasn't held together. The house was unlike any other place. It was abusive."
When Casto was 12 years old, he left that house for the first time. He went to a friend's house to live, came back to Stacy's house, and then left again to live at another friend's house. When he was 14 years old, Casto left for good and began figuring things out for himself.
The next few years were a struggle. Casto barely got by. The most amazing part is that among all of this adversity he blossomed into a fantastic basketball player, one that garnered interest from the likes of Georgetown, UConn, Oregon, Washington and Washington State.
Casto ended up at a foster home in the country section of Spokane, where he lived on a farm and had to help maintain animals.
"We owned horses, chickens, geese, ducks, you name it," explained Casto. "I had to maintain all these animals every day. I had to clean up their poop. Any time I feel like I'm going to quit and I'm down and out about something, I just go back to the day where I used to be shoveling horse poop and looking for a meal on the side. Playing basketball couldn't be the worst of what I've been through. I had to clean out a chicken coop. We even had a goat. It was ridiculous."
After that, Casto says he carried his clothes in bags and lived wherever he could live. At times, he slept in the Freeman High School auditorium, at friends' houses, and with various coaches. At one point, he started working to save money so that he could stay at motels.
"I'd work for a couple days to save 100 bucks," Casto said. "If you paid 100 bucks at this motel, you got a room for a week. I worked a couple weekends and got some money so I could have that hotel for a week."
Right before his senior year, Stacy contacted Casto and said she wanted to start over and take care of him once again. She had recently split with her husband and was moving to Seattle.
"In my head it was a new beginning," Casto said. "It wasn't going to be more of the same that I had grown up with. Having a mom was such a huge factor for me and having a family was such a huge factor for me. Throughout my life, I wanted a family and I wanted a functional family and I believed strongly in family."