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2024 NBA Draft: Stephon Castle turns pro after helping UConn win national championship as a freshman

UConn freshman phenom Stephon Castle is declaring for the NBA Draft after helping the Huskies to the 2024 national title, ESPN reported Friday. The 6-foot-6 wing is a versatile player who stepped into the starting lineup for the reigning national champions at just 19 years old and played a critical role in 27 minutes per contest.

Castle hit just 26.7% of his 3-pointers but did almost everything else at a high level for the Huskies. The former five-star prospect showed playmaking instincts by dishing out 2.9 assists, demonstrated a feathery touch in the lane and some physicality as a finisher at the rim. Perhaps most notable, however, was Castle’s defense.

In UConn’s national championship game win over Purdue, Castle helped lock down Purdue’s perimeter players as his length and quickness made life difficult on a crop of Purdue guards that struggled to make substantive contributions. For the season, Castle averaged 11.1 points and 4.7 rebounds on 47.2% shooting. He also rated as the team’s second-best defender behind only 7-4 Donovan Clingan, according to evanmiya.com.

Ranked the No. 9 high school player in the Class of 2023 by 247Sports, Castle delivered on the five-star hype he generated out of Newton High School in Covington, Georgia. Though it was a short stay at UConn, Castle will be remembered fondly there for his contributions to the program’s sixth national title.

Stephon Castle’s NBA Draft projection

Castle needs to improve his 3-point shot. But otherwise, he’s among the more NBA-ready prospects coming out of the college game this season. He is No. 10 in the 2024 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings from CBS Sports and landed at No. 8 in a recent mock draft from Kyle Boone.

“Even on a loaded UConn team, Castle as a freshman has managed to stand out with his defensive intensity and length affecting teams all season,” Boone wrote. “He’s still a work in progress on offense, where his confidence can come and go, but there’s a nice foundation to build on here to like Castle a lot.”

“In the simplest terms, he’s a five-star high school prospect with great positional size who has been playing a big role nicely for one of the nation’s best teams,” Parrish wrote. “That’s an encouraging combination even if concerns about his not-quite-there-yet jumper are legitimate.”

Impact on UConn

UConn coach Dan Hurley lost three starters from his 2023 title-winning team and actually managed to get better the following season as the Huskies pulled off a stunning repeat. Castle was a big part of how he did it. Hurley again faces the task of replacing several key faces. Guards Tristen Newtown and Cam Spencer are out of eligibility. Castle and 7-2 center Donovan Clingan are gone to the NBA. Alex Karaban is the only starter who might return, and even he is going through the NBA Draft process while maintaining his collegiate eligibility. The Huskies are bound to look drastically different in 2024-25.

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