LOS ANGELES - DeAngelo Casto approaches basketball much like he approaches life: Directly. Forcefully. Hoping for the best, but realizing that disaster may be lurking on the next corner.
Casto, the Washington State standout out of Spokane’s Ferris High School, plays the game with barely restrained glee. He soars to block shots, dives to the floor to gather loose balls, and bulls his way to the basket for monstrous dunks that have made him a fan favorite in Pullman.
Casto’s life is far more complex off the court, and not just because Casto and his girlfriend became parents of a baby girl last year.
“All i can say about myself is you dont know me and very few do,” Casto writes on his myspace page. “what you see is not what you get.”
Casto wavers on his willingness to go into detail about his childhood, but at various times he has revealed that his biological parents were drug abusers, among other things. The family lived in squalor, frequently bouncing from home to home in the St. Louis area.
Casto said he watched in horror when his father was shot to death on the street. His mother, Casto said, worked as a prostitute before dying of a drug overdose.
Casto’s life may have been saved when he was adopted in grade school by a white couple in rural Freeman, outside Spokane.
Casto, who is black, shared a large house with up to 14 siblings.
Casto, who said his early schooling was sporadic, scared off many recruiters with shaky high school grades.
An articulate young man who likes to play chess, Casto admits that he does not enjoy school, and he has mentioned the possibility of bypassing his senior year to turn pro.
Whenever Casto leaves Washington State, the school will be losing not only one of its best athletes, but one of its more interesting individuals.
The 6-foot-8, 255-pound Casto made the all-league second team in the Pacific-10 Conference this season – he’s made the Pac-10 all-defensive first team two years running – and he dreams of playing in the NBA.
Casto, a natural power forward, essentially serves as WSU’s center most of the time. He makes up for his relative lack of size with quickness, leaping ability, determination and smarts.
“DeAngelo is as good as I’ve seen at taking a charge,” Cougars coach Ken Bone said.
“Defensively in particular, he’s a naturally very good athlete, but he doesn’t just rely on that,” WSU forward Abe Lodwick said.
“He has really good timing. He has a really good work ethic on defense. Obviously, when his offense gets rolling, his defense gets better.”
Casto averaged a career-best 12 points per game (18th in the Pac-10), plus team highs of 6.8 rebounds (eighth) and 1.6 blocked shots (third) this season.
His career-high 60 percent field-goal shooting ranks second in the conference behind player of the year Derrick Williams of Arizona.
“He’s got some good post moves,” Lodwick said. “People kind of sleep on him offensively, but he’s a real good player.”
Some of Casto’s best games, offensively and defensively, have come against Williams and other top players.
“He rises to the challenge,” Bone said. “He takes on a challenge like that and does extremely well.”
“I like to play hard,” Casto said. “It’s more fun to play someone who’s real good, and the competition is high when the stakes are high.”
No matter how important the basketball game – including Thursday’s quarterfinal against Washington at the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles – one hopes the stakes for Casto will never be higher than they were in his early youth.
“ive been through alot in this lifetime,” he wrote on myspace. “my story is one of much heartbreak and destruction.”
Bone said Tuesday he expects starting point guard Reggie Moore to be “fine” for Thursday’s game (8:30 p.m., FSN). Moore missed Saturday’s game against UCLA after spraining his right ankle in Thursday’s win over USC. ...
The Cougars (19-11) are seeded sixth. The defending champion Huskies (20-10) are the No. 3 seed. ... The lowest seed to win the tourney was No. 6 USC in 2009. ... All games will be televised on FSN except Saturday afternoon’s 3 p.m. title game, which is on Ch. 7.