BUFFALO, W.Va. -- With hard work and confidence comes production and impact, and for Charleston Catholic's Zach Casto that combination has lifted his game and the Irish to new heights at perhaps the most crucial point of the basketball season.Previously known a defender first, Casto has emerged to become one of Catholic's most viable scoring options. Casto, a senior, established new personal career-high scoring marks twice in the past two weeks, bringing a new flavor to his game and the team, but his recent production comes as no shock to Coach Bill McClanahan."I would like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not," McClanahan said.After setting his personal best at 23, Casto eclipsed that mark with a game-high 29 points during Catholic's 83-59 win at Buffalo last Tuesday.
McClanahan said Casto's offensive contributions, though late in his career, come as a direct result of Casto's continued effort away from the court."Zach's worked hard," he said. "He worked hard in the offseason. He's worked hard in the fall, and Zach has put himself in a position to be successful, and we talk about that as a team."You have to earn success. Everybody wants to be successful, but you have to earn it, and Zach went out and has done the things in practice and the offseason to earn it, so I'm happy for him, and I knew he was capable of it. I'm just glad to see him to do it, so he knows he's capable of it, and now I would expect his confidence to continue to grow."Casto's confidence took center stage at Buffalo as he converted on each of his first nine field-goal attempts, and he finished 11-of-13 from the floor.
Irish junior Nick George said offensive success is nothing new to Casto, though."That's not just this game, that's multiple games," he said. "He plays with confidence. He's unstoppable."Casto attributed his game-time success to an efficient practice plan."Honestly, I'm just shooting a lot more in practice and I'm really starting to focus in and zone in at practice and just get the right shots up, that I know I'm going to shoot in the game," he said, "so it's making me more confident on the court."
As Casto's confidence grows and his game attracts attention, his impact creates opportunities for his Irish teammates."It's huge," George said. "Zach really provides a good boost for the team, because he's so consistent. Every time, he's such a good shooter. You can just count on him for making shots and playing defense, so it really helps the team. It really opens up the court."While Casto has just recently shined offensively, George said Casto has always ranked among the area's top threats.
"He is one of the best shooters," George said. "Him and (former Irish player) Haston Gerencir last year. He's one of the best shooters I've ever seen, at least in high school basketball."Casto's reputation as a scorer continues to grow, as his confidence, but Casto forged the foundation of his career as a defender, McClanahan said."He's realized that for him to play last year it was primarily as a defensive role and a rebounder, and he brought some strength to us," McClanahan said of Casto. "This year, to be a starter, he needed to go that route first, and then once he understood his defensive role he expanded his offensive role, and with that expansion comes confidence and with confidence comes success."To Casto, his role is rooted in the fundamentals."(I see myself) primarily for being a teammate, of course," he said, "so that is getting rebounds and passing the ball and being unselfish; scoring and taking good shots, helping to win the game, of course."As scoring has become an increasing part of his contribution, Casto said it's a credit to his team.
"I think it's because of the confidence my teammates and coaches have instilled in me," he said. "Every day in practice they do that for me."On the court and away from the floor, McClanahan said Casto continually improves as a result of his work ethic and confidence."I have watched Zach Casto grow up in the four years he's been in this program, and I am very proud of the young man, not only the player, but the young man he's become," he said, "and I hope he continues to grow."Those extra points by Casto won't be discouraged either as Catholic looks to defend its Class A state title.