July 19, 2024

Spurs’ Stephon Castle opens up on why he and Wemby will ‘be scary for the league,’ joining Chris Paul and more


SACRAMENTO — It’s been nearly two weeks since the San Antonio Spurs used the No. 4 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft to draft  former UConn star Stephon Castle — a 6-foot-6 guard (with a 6-9 wingspan) who has the upside to become the best on-ball defender from his draft class.

In the final game of the California Classic in Sacramento on Tuesday, Castle had his best performance yet: 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Castle showed flashes throughout the multi-day event of why he can make an immediate impact for Gregg Popovich and company as a rookie because of his elite basketball IQ.

The Spurs had two picks in the top 10 of the NBA Draft and traded the No. 8 pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 2031 unprotected first-round pick and a 2030 top-one protected pick swap. San Antonio signed 11-time NBA All-Star point guard Chris Paul after he was waived by the Warriors and landed Harrison Barnes as part of a three-time sign-and-trade that ultimately saw former Spur — DeMar DeRozan — go to the Sacramento Kings

Castle has expressed a desire previously to be a point guard at the next level after playing mostly off-ball in his lone collegiate season. Because of Castle’s position versatility, it’s easy to see Castle playing next to Paul in an off ball role or getting run in some situations as the lone PG on the floor to get him as much experience as possible during the Spurs’ rebuild.

After the summer league in California’s capital concluded, Castle sat down with CBS Sports to answer questions about his Summer League debut, his fit next Victor Wembanyama, winning a national title at UConn and expectations ahead of the 2024-25 NBA season.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Cameron Salerno: What have the last three months been like for you? Winning a national championship at UConn, getting drafted No. 4 and now playing in the summer league?

Stephon Castle: It’s been super fun. I love playing basketball so the journey I have been on, especially the last couple of months, coming off a national championship and then coming to an organization [like the Spurs] and playing summer league, that’s all a basketball player could really ask for.

Salerno: Your coach at UConn, Dan Hurley, was pursued heavily by the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this NBA offseason. What do you think it says about him that he stayed put?

Castle: It just shows how authentic of a person he is. I knew before I committed to UConn just watching their practices and talking to him the couple months that I did talk to him before I committed, I could see how authentic he was as a person and a coach. I feel like he’s the greatest coach in college basketball right now. That speaks even more highly of UConn and the players that he’s producing.

Salerno: Chris Paul and Harrison Barnes joined the Spurs (officially) this week. Have you talked to them yet?

Castle: I’ve talked to them briefly, just acknowledging them joining the team briefly. I feel like it’s going to help my game even more just having those kinda vets lead the way for me and kinda show me the right way and wrong way to do things. To have that, in my first year as a rookie, it’s really all a basketball player could ask for. I can’t wait to get out there [and play with them].

Salerno: I know you spoke with Wemby on draft night. How does your skill set complement his?

Castle: He’s probably one of the most versatile players in the league, just his size and playmaking ability, his catch and shoot ability. What we bring defensively with me guarding the ball and him protecting the rim behind me, that’s going to be scary for the league once we get pretty acclimated. It’s going to be fun playing with him. He’s a really good player and he’s going to elevate my game even more.

Salerno: What do you see your role as in the NBA? Do you see yourself as a true point guard or playing more off the ball?

Castle: I’m comfortable really anywhere out on the court. I will say I’m probably most comfortable on the ball, but if I play off the ball, I still feel 100% comfortable there. Just being with the kinda team that we have, I feel like we will have five guys that can dribble, pass and shoot. The positions are out of the equation a little bit. 

Salerno: I know a three-peat is on the table for UConn. What do you think of their chances to win another title in 2025?

Castle: Being there for a year and kinda seeing how everything is ran, just seeing the roster that they have and how deep the roster is, I think they’re going to be the team to beat again this year. They’re probably the favorites to three-peat especially behind coaches like coach Hurley, coach Kimani [Young] and coach Luke [Murray], all those guys there, they have done it before. They know what it looks like. They know how to coach those guys, so they should be right in the position to three-peat.

Salerno: I know you mentioned your UConn assistant coaches. Do you think those guys land a high-major head coaching job down the line?

Castle: They’re super smart and they see the game really well. I feel like they will be able to fit in any kind of situation whether that’s as an assistant coach, head coach, they will flourish in any kind of situation. I have the ultimate confidence in that coaching staff. I trust them with anything. They can handle any kind of adversity.





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