NEW CASTLE —
It hasn’t been an easy season for New Castle by any stretch. Along with dealing with a new classification, new opponents and high expectations, the team has had to endure struggles off the court. The ’Canes experienced several deaths to members of their family and community throughout their time together. Former player, Corey Eggleston, a starter on last year’s championship team, lost his father, Corey Eggleston Sr., in November. Senior guard Jesse Salzano lost his grandfather, Joseph Farris, while Anderson lost his grandmother, Candace Anderson, in December.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity recently and a lot of deaths,” Drew’s brother and junior center Stew Allen said. “We were all here for each other and treated each other just the same. We’re all family and we came together and comforted one another.”
As brothers and family, the team can point to several moments throughout the season that strengthened its bond.
“We’ve been playing with each other for awhile,” Domenick said. “I think the thing that molded us together as a team is the Florida trip. We really bonded. We had our own rooms and it was a great trip.”
New Castle took a trip to Florida to participate in the KSA Orlando Tournament in mid-December. When the boys weren’t having fun at Universal Studios, they found time to play some basketball, taking home a tournament victory with wins over Cypress Creek (Fla.) and Anchorage Christian (Alaska).
“Like Brandon said, the Florida trip really helped out a lot with bringing the team together,” Anderson agreed. “I guess you kind of grow close with everyone by playing so many games and traveling so much in the summer together. I don’t know, we kind of just became brothers at some point.”
THE HEAT IS ON
Coach Blundo points to heated practices setting an early standard for his team’s performance that lasted throughout the season.
“I do think it’s the practices and the way these guys battle against each other and the ability to do that and really go at each other hard,” he said. “A near-fight in practice isn’t abnormal for us. It would appear like it never happened as soon as the play is over or as soon as the practice is over because they understand. They get the competitive element of practice every single day. Those are the things that are special. I think the other thing is when you put that much time in together and hard work together and know what each and every one of them have been through, it creates a bond you can’t break.”
With a grueling taste for competition on the court, the ’Canes balance that by keeping a light demeanor off the court. New Castle isn’t without its share of jokers on the squad, with Drew Allen and senior guard Antonio Rudolph seemingly taking the lead.
“One day I walk in the locker room, and we were waiting for the girls team to get off the floor,” Blundo said. “Antonio, he was waiting at the dry-erase board, imitating me, doing my pre-game speech. All the guys were on their stools sitting up and listening to him and he was smacking the board and pointing his finger and he didn’t know I walked in. It was something to see.”
Allen says he’s misunderstood as a cutup, looking at it from a different perspective.
“We have a lot of clowns on the team, but me, I’m not a clown, I just laugh a lot,” he joked. “There’s people like Tyler (Fitzpatrick), Levar (Ware) and Antonio, those are the jokers.”