SHIPPENSBURG — The men’s basketball team at Shippensburg University has experienced quite a turnaround in recent years and John Castello is playing more than just a minor role.
The proof is in the numbers.
The 2016 Mars High graduate, who is averaging 15.3 points and nine rebounds per game, scored his 1,000th career point in a 91-65 victory over Mansfield Jan. 23.
Making the feat even more impressive is the fact that Castello, a 6-foot-4 forward, is only a junior.
“Considering the guys who have done it here before me, it’s pretty cool to be on that list,” said Castello, who is second on the team in scoring behind Antonio Kellem’s 16 ppg.
“We lost an All-American post player and a very good guard from last year’s team,” said Shippensburg head coach Chris Fite, who has his team sitting at 17-5 overall and 11-3 in conference play. “We needed John to step up in the scoring department and he has exceeded our expectations for him since he got here.
“He’s an unselfish and tough player with a high basketball IQ,” added Fite. “If we can get seven to nine guys like that on our roster, we can compete with anybody.”
Castello has been very consistent since arriving at the PSAC East school.
In just his third game as a true freshman, Castello put up 14 points and seven rebounds in a win over Slippery Rock in 2016.
He finished that season averaging nearly a double-double of 10.2 points and 9.2 rebounds.
“It took me only about four or five games until I felt really comfortable with the college game,” said Castello. “I had a really good supporting cast around me.”
He did not endure the dreaded sophomore slump, instead putting up 11.8 points and 7.9 rebounds last season.
Castello’s efforts thus far for the Red Raiders have been key to the program going from conference doormat to being recognized on a national level.
In Fite’s first season of 2013-14, the team was a dreadful 3-23. Castello helped Shippensburg win a conference title and reach the NCAA Division II regionals his freshman season. Last year, the Red Raiders made it to the Sweet 16.
“We’ve taken this program to a new level,” said Fite. “John and other guys like him on the roster are the reason for that.
“Now we have a goal of pursuing championships every season.”
That’s fine with Castello, who became used to winning at Mars, where he helped the Planets reach the state championship game for the first time ever as a senior.
Since then, he has become a more versatile player, draining 91 treys, including 36 this season.
“In high school, I was kept down low and did not get many chances to show my range,” said Castello. “My outside shooting has really improved the last few years.”
But not at the expense of other areas where he is needed.
“He rebounds very well on both ends of the floor,” Fite said. “With John, it’s his mind-set as much as anything.”