Notebook: Wait ‘til Casto's in fighting trim

COUGAR POWER FORWARD DeAngelo Casto, delightfully candid as usual, admitted he wasn't in the best condition when he tried out for the U.S. under-19 national basketball team. Casto must have done something besides gasping for air in Colorado. He joined WSU teammate Klay Thompson in making the team that will represent the U.S. at the U19 World Championships next month in New Zealand.

Casto reportedly pulled down a bushel of rebounds in the four trials games the American team played, while averaging seven points and making 14 of 21 total shots. But in fighting trim? Not according to him.

"Oh no," the Cougar forward said Thursday after another session of two-a-days in mile-high Colorado Springs, Colo. "I'm still working on getting in shape. The altitude will help me get in shape."

Some athletes claim they need two full days to adjust to the Colorado mountain air. Feel any better Thursday after your third day of workouts, DeAngelo?

"Not really," he said.

"DeAngelo's playing great," Thompson said. "He's been dominating the boards and showing his strength and athleticism."

Casto said Thompson is "playing awesome" and burying his usual array of shots from the perimeter. The 6-foot-6 Thompson, who played the "2" shooting guard position at WSU last season, is being asked to rebound more than he's accustomed because he is being used at the "3" small forward spot.

"I don't mind," he said. "Whatever they ask, I'll do. I'll adjust."

Thompson said he is "thankful for the opportunity to represent my country." Casto, who lived in abject poverty in crime-ridden East St. Louis, Ill., before he was adopted in grade school by a family in Freeman, Wash., said he's never been to a foreign country.

"It means the world to make the team and it's an honor to be able to put that jersey on with ‘USA' on the chest," Casto said.

Before flying to New Zealand next Thursday, the U19 team will scrimmage in Colorado Springs against the U.S. team headed to the World University Games in Serbia next month.

-- Bjornstad visiting: David Long, Steven Bjornstad's high school basketball coach, said Friday he believes WSU and Saint Mary's are the two finalists for the two-time Class 3A All-State forward.

Long said Bjornstad made an official visit to Saint Mary's this week and is headed to Pullman sometime next week. Long said Colorado State is the latest school to express interest in the 6-foot-10 Bjornstad, who starred at Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash. He signed a letter of intent with Nevada, but asked for and eventually received his release after the Wolf Pack coaching staff changed.

-- Crimson gold: Gold medals may take on a hint of crimson at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships next week in Eugene.

Ex-Cougar Bernard Lagat has the fastest 5,000 meters, 3,000 meters and mile times among Americans this year, and he's No. 2 in the 1,500. WSU sophomore Jeshua Anderson is ranked third in the 400 hurdles. The top three finishers at nationals advance to the World Championships in Berlin. Others can advance by meeting certain criteria.

Obviously, WSU's football coaches could be excused if they have mixed emotions about Anderson's success in track. The 400 hurdles finals in Berlin take place Aug. 18, well after fall camp begins and just 2 ½ weeks prior to the Cougars' football opener against Stanford.

Anderson, a starting wide receiver last season and junior-to-be, has little time for football drills and weightlifting when he's competing in track. And the two-time NCAA hurdles champ does not participate in spring football with track season in full swing.

-- New hire: Jason Belford, who played for Cougar football coach Paul Wulff at Eastern Washington, will serve as a student assistant coach this season. He replaces Jake Young, another former Eagle.

Back for a second season are student assistant Josh Tschrigi and graduate assistants Nick Lucey and Ryan Smaha. The latter is the son of former WSU trainer Mark Smaha.

-- Kelati's season over: Former Cougar sharpshooter Thomas Kelati's fourth season in the European pro basketball ranks came to an end when his team lost in the Spanish League semifinals.

Kelati led Unicaja with 11.8 points per game. He spent the previous two seasons in Poland after playing his first pro season in Belgium.

-- Burg ready: Alex Burg, drafted in the 24th round by San Francisco, has agreed to terms with the Giants. He finished summer school this week and due to report Monday to Scottsdale, Ariz., in the Rookie-class Arizona League.

Burg, drafted as a catcher, is not fully recovered from an April knee injury.

Cougar relief pitchers Jeremy Johnson and Seth Harvey have yet to sign. They were drafted by the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels, respectively.

-- Media Leaf: Steve Kelley of The Seattle Times writes about Ryan Leaf's fall from grace here while Art Thiel of checks in with this column.

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