“He does a lot of stuff and has a phenomenal work ethic,” Morris said.
As a junior, Castlin’s phenomenal work ethic helped him emerge as a leader, leading the Hawks to a 28-5 record, and he played a big part in helping the team trek all the way to the state finals for the first time in team history.
Castlin’s schedule in the months leading up to the 2012-13 season was just as busy, giving him a chance to key in on his shooting, ball-handling and lifting weights. The hard work paid off, and the 6-foot-3 forward developed into a more well-rounded player.
Castlin, who averaged 19.5 points for Hillgrove, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, is the 2012-13 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“He’s one of those kids who are really fun to coach,” Morris said. “He loves to play basketball and is always trying to learn and get better. Kyle never has that feeling he’s arrived. He always had that feeling that he could do more. The guy gets out early to practice to shoot, and he stays late to shoot.”
If there was anything that gave Castlin and the Hawks a booster shot this season, it was a 48-42 loss in the Region 4AAAAAA championship, to a North Cobb team that was missing two starters. Castlin didn’t have his best game against the Warriors, until he made some free throws late in the game to get his point total to 10.
With the North Cobb loss still hanging, Castlin’s performances in the Class AAAAAA state tournament were of a player who didn’t want his season to end.
The team followed his example.
Castlin led Hillgrove with 18 points in its 57-43 win over Valdosta in the first round. He then scored 19 points in a 72-63 win over Tri-Cities in the second round, with 10 in the first quarter.
At Brunswick for the quarterfinal round, Castlin added 18 points to lead the Hawks to a 57-46 win.
“We didn’t get through our region, but we knew we could use it as motivation through the state playoffs,” Castlin said. “Losing probably helped us more because it made us feel more hungry to keep playing.”
Then it was on to Georgia Tech, where Hillgrove faced a Wheeler team that was much more experienced in postseason situations, having won four state championships in the last 11 seasons.
Wheeler had more height inside the post, but that didn’t faze Castlin. He had arguably his best game of the season in helping Hillgrove win 56-54 — finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds and four steals.
Castlin’s two 3-pointers contributed to an 11-2 run in the second quarter that put the Hawks in front.
After Wheeler rallied to take a five-point lead in the third quarter, Castlin scored five straight points to get the Hawks back in it, with four coming on end-to-end layups.
“We had motivational things in our locker room, like Twitter posts that said Wheeler was going to beat us,” Castlin said. “We all came to play and it was a close game.”
Hillgrove’s state championship bid fell short, however, when Norcross won 60-48. Due to foul trouble, Castlin’s was limited to just eight points.
Castlin’s regular-season highlight came in a 64-56 win over Allatoona in January, when he had 32 points and 13 rebounds. That helped the Hawks rally from a six-point third-quarter deficit.
In the end, however, there were no regrets.
“This season was a lot of fun, especially making history for our school,” Castlin said. “We were the first team to make it to the (state finals) and it was a lot of fun.”