Though it feels like ancient history now, but Colin Castleton remembers the humble beginnings of his basketball journey.
He played junior-varsity ball in the ninth grade and was unsure whether he had talent for the game, or just exceptional height at 6 feet, 10 inches. The ensuing summer, Castleton decided to devote his full attention to basketball.
“I was nowhere near as focused as I am now,” Castleton said. “I just didn’t know what I wanted with my life, honestly. Basketball helped me cope and not worry about stressful things.
“I didn’t know the right crowd to hang out with. I was doing the wrong things in the classroom. I didn’t really have a good attitude about basketball and life. … A lot of kids go through that time; I just went through it quicker. … I grew into my body, got stronger, quicker and more athletic. Basketball just took off, and I fell in love with it.”
Since then, Castleton blossomed into not only one of the best players locally, but one of the most coveted recruits in the nation. He caps his high school career not only with his third All-Area nomination, but as The News-Journal’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Castleton led the area in scoring by a fairly wide margin, averaging 24.5 points per game for the Green Wave on 53 percent shooting. He also led the area in blocks (150 total, 5.6 per game) and was second in rebounding (11.7 per game).
Two summers ago, Green Wave coach Eddie Miller also saw Castleton’s lack of focus and challenged him to give everything he had on the court and in the classroom. Miller believed the big man could be the first Florida Dairy Farmers Player of the Year he ever coached.
Sure enough, Castleton earned the nomination earlier this month for Class 7A. He also finished eighth in the voting for Mr. Basketball state-wide.
“I’m really proud of how far he’s come,” Miller said. “I wish he would have had a chance to play in regionals this year. Individually, he’s really excited about the opportunity ahead. He’s been rewarded for his hard work.”
The Green Wave fell just short of cracking the Class 7A playoff field. Castleton missed a potential go-ahead free throw in the final seconds of regulation against Deltona, a game the Wolves eventually won, 65-55, in overtime.
It took Castleton roughly two weeks to get over the loss.
“The day after (the game), I got back in the gym. I couldn’t sleep that night,” Castleton said. “I feel like we could have won the game in other ways before that, but you’ve got to live through missing some shots.”
It’s that confidence Castleton plans to demonstrate at the next level. He’s clashed with some of the best players in the nation on the summer AAU circuit, most notably Darius Garland (Vanderbilt signee) and Zion Williamson (Duke).
In so doing, Castleton began to garner serious college attention of his own. He was listed as the No. 131 national prospect by 247Sports and collected nearly two-dozen Division I offers, eventually narrowing down his potential choices to either Michigan or Big 10 rival Illinois.
Ultimately, Castleton chose Michigan following an official visit at the end of September. He feels that decision has been validated during the Wolverines’ run to the Final Four.
And it makes him that much more excited to join the “brotherhood” this coming fall.
“They’re actually a family, and they love each other so much,” Castleton said. “You can see it whenever somebody blocks a shot or dunks it. It’s been awesome to see how far they have made it.”