‘The Point Guard Version of Jayson Tatum’: Castle Brings Unique Skill Set to U18 Squad
Stephon Castle is among the millions of basketball fans watching this year’s NBA Finals, which tipped off Thursday night. However, the 17-year-old prep star has his eyes on one player in particular.
“Jayson Tatum,” Castle said without hesitation, when asked who he models his game around. “I’m like the point guard version of Jayson Tatum. That’s what I’ve always said.”
Watching his favorite player guide the Boston Celtics to a Game 1 road victory against the Golden State Warriors capped quite a week for Castle.
Over the weekend, he was named one of 17 finalists for the 2022 USA Basketball MU18 National Team. Then on Friday, Castle officially made the final 12-man roster that will compete at the 2022 FIBA U18 Americas Championship in Tijuana, Mexico, from June 6-12. That event will largely coincide with the NBA Finals, so Castle will be watching as much as he can and rooting for the team in green.
“I think they match up pretty well,” Castle said of the underdog Celtics. “Both teams are great offensively and defensively. It’s gonna be a great matchup.”
Another team that has the look of a potentially title-winning squad is Castle’s U18 squad. He noted that the ability and versatility of the team were quite obvious throughout the team’s recent training camp in Houston.
“We’re a great defensive team with a lot of energy,” Castle said. “But we can also score the ball. We’re very versatile. Our bigs are really long and skilled and we have good guards. I think we’ll be hard to beat if we just come together as a group. Everyone on the team is talented. It’s definitely a humbling experience.”
Castle, a 6-foot-6 point guard, will have one of the more important roles on the team. He will mostly be asked to play shooting guard, as head coach Tad Boyle has acknowledged that the roster has several other players who can only play point guard.
That will be an adjustment for Castle, but not an overbearing one. At both Newton High School (Ga.) and on his AAU team, Castle typically moves from the point to the two-guard position when the team brings its backup point guard off the bench.
“It’s something I’m used to,” said Castle, who has gradually transitioned from an off-the-ball role to being his team’s point guard in recent years.
Of course, moving to a wing position more closely aligns Castle with a player like Tatum, who is asked carry a heavy offensive burden for the defensive-minded Celtics.
“His confidence is crazy,” Castle said. “He’ll miss two or three shots and shows nothing in his body language. I try to model my game after that.”
And that is going pretty well so far. Castle was named the Newton County Player of the Year as a junior last season after averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He has committed to Connecticut, where he plans to join the Huskies for 2023-24 season.
“I’m trying to bring them back to being a winning program,” Castle said. “They’ve fallen off a little bit, so I want to get them back to where they were in those Kemba (Walker) days.”
And from there, Castle is setting his sights even further.
“I think I can be a potential lottery pick and hopefully play a lot of years in the league. That’s pretty much my goal,” he said. “I want to be one of those guys who can stay in the NBA for a lot of years. It’s not easy. It’s hard to stay in the NBA, so being able to do that is a great goal to have.”
That is what motivates Castle to be great — along with the desire to provide for his family. He notes that he can’t wait to repay his parents and siblings for all they’ve done for him over the years.
But before Castle’s journey takes him to the NBA, or college, or even to his senior season of high school hoops, the next step is Tijuana for his inaugural experience with USA Basketball.
“I’m definitely excited to play with the group of guys selected,” Castle said. “I think our team is really unselfish and I don’t think we have any egos on our team. I want to go there and win a gold medal. There are a lot of people in this country who could’ve been selected, so it’s a blessing to get this opportunity.”