Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
Alex High School junior point guard Shaedon Castor has only been a Longhorn for a few months, but it wasn’t long before he was just another one of the guys.
Castor, who began attending Alex High School in August, comes from Mount St. Mary High School in Oklahoma City, a Roman Catholic private school that plays basketball in class 4A.
He attended elementary and middle school in the Mustang Public Schools system before going to Mount St. Mary for the first two years of his high school career.
Castor said both his parents attended small high schools, and that his father owns land and works near Alex, which contributed to the decision to have him attend school in Grady County town.
“We just thought it would be a good experience for me to experience a class A school,” Castor said. “My parents both grew up in a small class A school, and they thought I would enjoy it.”
Alex head boys basketball coach Isaac Byrne said he was cautiously optimistic when he heard that Castor might be coming to Alex.
“He moved in the late summer,” Byrne said. “His parents came down and talked to [high school Principal Doug] Tolson. I wasn’t really sure he was going to come. When he enrolled, I was pretty excited about it.”
While most of the Longhorns basketball team also plays football in the fall, Castor and some other Alex players spent hours each day in the gym. Byrne said the other players noticed the work ethic the new kid was putting in, and followed suit.
“He immediately came in and had the respect of all the kids,” Byrne said of Castor. “He was in here in the preseason; him and Dalton Payne, Jackson Mainka, some of the other kids. They stayed up here three and four hours every day, just shooting in the gym. The other kids saw him doing that.”
Castor and his teammates built familiarity with each other during preseason workouts and also during Sunday night open gym sessions.
The impression Castor made became clear when the season drew nearer, and Byrne brought the team together to decide on team captains.
“His work ethic is what everyone was impressed with,” Byrne said. “So much so, that coming right in we voted on team captains, and he was voted a captain. I think that’s rare for a new guy.”
Things only got better once the season started, and everyone on the Longhorns’ basketball team began to benefit from Castor’s style of play.
Last season, Alex was led by one of the best players in the class, shooting guard Alex Helm. Helm was a scoring guard who also controlled the ball for most possessions, and could drop 30 points any given game.
Castor is a different type of player. Although he can score, he has the ball-handling ability and court vision of a true point guard, and early in the season, Alex’s scoring balance is a testament to the effect Castor has had.
The Longhorns have had several different players lead the team in scoring multiple times already this year, as the team makes an effort to keep the pace of play fast and find the hot hand each night.
“It was a lot different when they had a shooting guard last year who shot most of their shots, didn’t really distribute the ball as well,” Castor said. “In my case, I like to run the floor really well, get to the basket or kick, get my post men involved, because it also opens up shots for me. I just like to get the whole team involved.”
Some of the primary beneficiaries of Castor’s offensive philosophy have been shooting guard Ryland Ketchum and forward Zach Mainka.
Ketchum often found himself bearing the burden of bringing the ball up the court last season and getting the team into the offense, even though he plays better off the ball, said Byrne. And Mainka is seeing more touches this year on the low block.
“Shaedon likes to pass it more than shoot, and we’ve got everyone else looking inside, so we’ll play inside-out,” Mainka said. “We’re working the ball around pretty good, being smart with our shots. A lot of guys are hitting this year.”
Castor said Byrne’s coaching style is similar to that of his previous coach at Mount St. Mary, so it hasn’t been a difficult adjustment for him. The biggest difference is playing in class A as opposed to the much bigger 4A.
“I believe that it is, of course, a lot more physical in the big schools, but here there is a lot more scoring through one or two players than maybe a whole team,” Castor said. “Like, we played Verden and they have one or two really solid players, and maybe their team wasn’t as good [as a 4A team], but they had those two scorers that can score maybe 20 or 30 a game, and you have to focus on shutting one guy down rather than a whole team.”
Castor, Mainka and Byrne all have high expectations for what the Longhorns can accomplish this season. The team has started 8-2, and the players are still getting used to each other and growing in the system.
Mainka said that, as well as Alex has played this year, the team can play even better by acknowledging that there are still faults to correct and staying true to the fast style of play.
“Our two losses knocked us down to where we are, instead of thinking we can’t be beaten, over the break we’re going to work harder and come back the second half of the season and stay strong and make a run in the playoffs,” Mainka said.
The Alex Longhorns boys basketball team has rallied behind its new leader, and Castor appears to be ready to handle whatever the season might throw at him.
“Nothing really surprises him,” Byrne said. “Nothing really catches him off-guard. He’s usually ready for most things.”