Student Athlete of the Month: Castles a team leader for Vikings | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Student Athlete of the Month: Castles a team leader for Vikings

South Tahoe senior McCallan Castles dunks earlier this season.

Playing basketball is in McCallan Castles' blood.

His mother, Alison, played division I hoops at Idaho State. She had a basketball in her son's hands when he was 5 years old.

Castles would go watch his older brother of two years at practice and longed to be on the team.

He grew up with basketball. That was way before he picked up a football, the sport that helped him earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley.

He loves basketball every bit as much as football.

"They're probably dead even to be honest, that's hard," Castles said. "It's one of those things where I was always able to play basketball and I had to wait to play football, but I love it as much. But basketball, I learned to play from my mom and we could always do it together. And my brother and I played together and when we played together it was nice because we didn't fight for once."

Recommended Stories For You

Castles could have chosen to play basketball at a higher level. During his sophomore year while playing in Colorado before moving to South Lake Tahoe for his junior and senior seasons, he said he received interest from Eastern Washington, Weber State and the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

"They were all great offers but they were all so small once I got big offers for football," Castles said. "I thought, 'I like both sports so I'll pick football.'"

Castles has South Tahoe playing at a high level. He is a team leader. And if he finds his range look out, the points are going to come fast.

For his effort on the court, and in the classroom, Castles was named the Tahoe Daily Tribune's Student Athlete of the Month.

"He's a pleasure to coach and have on the team," said Vikings head coach David Finnegan. "He's developing into a leader. Kids look up to him and we've been trying to coach him into that role and he's been accepting to it. He's our leading scorer and if he's not the leader in rebounds, assists, block and steals, he's right there, probably second."

Finnegan has witnessed Castles catch fire and marvels at the site. He watches him pull up from long range and drain 3's seconds apart. He watches Castles almost hurt the rim when the 6-foot-5 big man throws down break away dunks.

"When he's on, it's fast-break points galore," Finnegan said. "He'll hit pull up 3-pointers — he had a game recently where he scored eight points in 30 seconds. When he's on, just give him the ball because he doesn't miss. The other guys can just run down and play defense because they know it's going in. He is athletic enough and has the potential to play division I college basketball."

Castles' immediate concern is chasing a Northern League championship and that means winning a lot of games down the stretch. The Vikings are alone in second place, but three games behind the Elko Indians with six to play.

The Vikings visited Elko Friday night, Jan. 26 (after press deadline). Leading up to the game, Castles said he hopes they can be the first team since 2012 to beat the Indians on their home court. Elko won the first meeting in December at South Tahoe.

"We're starting to come together and complete more games. We've gotta play fundamental defense, we broke down a lot on our press … the last time, and we didn't shoot very well. We've been shooting better since. I think we can be a real contender if we do well this weekend."