Stephon Castle is UConn men's basketball's first McDonald's All-American since 2016: 'It's validation'

Photo of David Borges

STORRS — The UConn men's basketball team has been looking for good news lately, and it got some great news on Tuesday afternoon.

Stephon Castle, the 6-foot-6, Class of 2023 guard from Georgia who committed to the Huskies over a year ago, was named to the 2023 McDonald's All-American Team.

Castle is the 12th UConn commit to be named a McDonald's All-American and the first since Alterique Gilbert, who played in the game in 2016. 

"That guy's had an incredibly highly-decorated high school career," UConn coach Dan Hurley said. "To cap it off with McDonald's ... what an addition he's going to be. Excited to coach a kid like that. We were hired to do a job with Stacey and Quann's son, and they're going to let us do the job every day."

Castle believes he'll be "another scorer, another facilitator that can guard fullcourt, bring energy to the team, just (be) a leader" when he joins the Huskies next season. Of course, he won't be available on Wednesday when the 19th-ranked Huskies host No. 13 Xavier at Gampel Pavilion (6:30 p.m., FS1).

UConn (16-5, 5-5 Big East) snapped a three-game losing skid with a 30-point win over Butler on Sunday at home. Now, the Huskies hope to keep the momentum going as the begin the second half of their Big East schedule against the Musketeers (16-4, 8-1 Big East), who put an end to UConn's undefeated season with a 10-point win over the Huskies on New Year's Day in Cincinnati.

That loss, in which coach Dan Hurley picked up a costly technical foul with 2:25 to play, kicked off a skein of five losses in six games for the Huskies, who fell from No. 2 in the nation to their current spot at No. 19. 

Castle recently played in the Spalding Hoophall Classic at Springfield College, mixing a quiet intensity with terrific handle and excellent court vision, firing darts across the floor to open teammates. He struggled with his shot (6-for-20 in a Jan. 14 game vs. IMG Academy), but displayed great athleticism, including a rafter-shaking putback dunk late in the game.

Asked about the possibility of being named to the McDonald's All-American Team at the time, he admitted: "That's a big goal for me. Hopefully, I do make it. That was my primary goal coming into my senior year. I'm just driving toward that."

He accomplished that goal, but Castle's honor also means a lot to the UConn program.

"It's validation of where your program is, and why they made the decision (to come here), what the decision was based on is something you're proud of," said Hurley. "More things that will continue to raise the bar. It's important for a program to continue to raise the bar of what you're doing."

This year's McDonald's All-American Game will be played on March 28 at the Toyota Center in Houston, a few days before the Final Four.

Earlier this month, Castle was bumped up to the No. 10 recruit in the nation in's Class of 2023 composite rankings.

Castle is the prized catch in a sterling five-man recruiting class for the Huskies that's currently ranked No. 4 in the nation by Joining Castle is 6-3 shooting guard Solomon Ball (No. 44 in the nation), 6-6 forward Jaylin Stewart (No. 64), 6-7 forward Jayden Ross (No. 124) and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare (No. 132).

Rim rattlings

• Other UConn commits who have been named McDonald's All-Americans: Alterique Gilbert (2016), Alex Oriakhi (2009), Kemba Walker (2008), Andrew Bynum (2005), Rudy Gay (2004), Charlie Villanueva (2003), Taliek Brown (2000), Scott Hazelton (2000), Khalid El-Amin (1997), Richard Hamilton (1996), Donyell Marshall (1991) and Corny Thompson.

Bynum wound up never playing for the Huskies while Hazelton transferred to Rhode Island after three years. @DaveBorges