Sauls to transfer, freeing scholie for ... ?

ONE OF THE TWO BIGGEST hurdles in state player of the year DeAngelo Casto's plan to play for Washington State next season has been cleared. Stephen Sauls, the Cougars' freshman guard who left the team and withdrew from school after sustaining a nasty concussion in January, has been granted his release from WSU and plans to transfer somewhere closer to his Houston-area home.

DeAngelo Casto, a 6-8 forward who led Spokane's Ferris High to back-to-back undefeated seasons and Class 4A championships, has made no secret over the last 10 days that he wants to become a Cougar.

Two big hurdles, though, have been in the way. One was the Cougars' lack of a scholarship opening. Their five slots for the class that will arrive this August were filled in the November signing period.

Stephen Sauls' departure smooths Casto's path, though Portland point guard Paul McCoy -- recently released from a letter of intent with Pepperdine -- possibly could be in the running for the Cougs.

The spring signing period for unsigned hoops prospects begins April 16.

Casto this season averaged 14.6 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks per game.

His situation remains a but cloudy, however. He told analyst Dave Telep on Tuesday that he has all but verballed to the Cougs, but that Georgetown is now calling him.

"I want to stay home and it's UW or WSU but if I can do it real big I may try to do that," Casto told Telep Tuesday. "Big," he said, means Georgetown, which recently called, Telep reports.

"The scholarship thing (is complicated)," Casto told Telep. "The only reason I can't commit 100 percent (to WSU) is that they don't have a 100 percent chance there's a scholarship for me."

Presuming the Sauls scholarship would be available to Casto, the remaining hurdle for him would be to secure a qualifying score on the SAT and attain the necessary GPA.

Sauls' first season with the Cougars was cut short after he sustained a significant concussion at practice Jan. 7. Shortly after, Sauls withdrew from classes and moved back to his hometown, near Houston, to get treatment to help control his symptoms. WSU will be applying to the NCAA for a medical hardship for Sauls which, if granted, would give him four years of eligibility remaining. Sauls' health is steadily improving and he is continuing on his path for a return to the hardwood.

"In the short time Stephen was here, he was a joy to coach," Bennett said. "Unfortunately his year was cut short with the concussion, but he certainly helped the team while he was here. He's one of the classier individuals I've coached. Everyone here is encouraged that he's progressing well and we all wish him the best."

Sauls played a year at Air Force Prep Academy before heading to Pullman for his freshman season last fall. He appeared in eight games for the Cougars, averaging 2.1 points in 6.3 minutes of action per game. The highlight of his WSU career came Nov. 24 against Mississippi Valley State in which he scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds and had one assist and one steal in 22 minutes in the Cougars' tournament held at Spokane Arena.

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