Castle’s hill: Change ways for senior season

Medgar Evers rising senior Ashley Castle has a world of potential that hasn't been fulfilled yet.

It’s Ashley Castle’s time right now and she knows it. The last two years have been plagued by issues off the court and inconsistencies on it. But in a few weeks she’ll be starting her senior year at Medgar Evers. The end of the line is coming soon. It’s do or die.

“I can’t mess up this year,” Castle said. “It’s my senior year. I can’t mess up.”

The talented, 5-foot-8 guard missed a few weeks when she was suspended by the school’s principal for disciplinary reasons. Castle even missed Medgar Evers’ first-round playoff game.

The Cougars went on to win the PSAL Class A title anyway, but things will be very different in 2010-11. Medgar Evers is likely to move up to Class AA and Castle won’t have St. Francis-bound star point guard Jasmin Robinson to lean on anymore.

“She’s gonna have a lot of work on her hands,” said Lady X-Men coach Kareem Benson, who has coached Castle for the last three summers.

Castle is not backing away from that challenge, though. Not even a little bit. She knows her senior season can make or break her entire high-school career and she’s relishing the chance to play at the highest level.

“I can’t wait,” Castle said. “Everybody has been doubting us. We’re about to show the ‘AA.’”

Her mindset and commitment has been called into question before. Benson says she needs to focus more. Medgar Evers coach Barney Davis has been known to criticize Castle’s conditioning and academics. Castle maintains that there are people in the school “out to get” her, but Benson says of course that isn’t the case.

“They want her to do well,” he said. “Sometimes kids don’t understand that. They think the coaches are hard on her, they think people are out to get them. It’s not that. They just see so much potential and want to help her reach it.”

That potential has been on display this summer. Castle has gotten more fit and her ability to penetrate into the lane is as creative and tough to stop as any player’s in New York City. In her Lady X-Men team’s loss to Team Prince at Conrad McRae on Sunday, Castle scored 15 points and got to the rim at will.

“She’s phenomenal and she does it effortlessly,” Benson said. “I think if she really wanted to turn it up and score 30, she can. Sometimes she wants other people involved in the game. But sometimes she has to know when to be aggressive and take over.”

Castle wasn’t thrilled with how she did on the AAU circuit playing with No Limit. She said people have told her that Radford, Canisius and NJIT are interested in her, but she isn’t sure where she is at with colleges yet.

What she does know is that this season can be a significant showcase of her ability. Medgar Evers will be playing against powerhouses like South Shore and Midwood every game in league play. If she excels, the colleges will be there. Her motivation is at an all-time high.

“Everybody watches the ‘AA,’” Castle said. “They don’t watch the ‘A.’ They get all the exposure. So it should be better for me since I’m the go-to person and I’m in the ‘AA’ now.”

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