By Rick Assad
Dyani Del Castillo enjoys a really good challenge because the reward at the end of the day is usually gratifying.
An accomplished basketball and softball player for Burroughs High, the senior has withstood every obstacle, including COVID-19, which trimmed her softball season to a few games.
Del Castillo has been a four-year starter as a shooting guard on the hoop squad and enters her third year as a starter and second with Doug Nicol, the coach, on the softball team where she toils in the outfield and in the pitcher’s circle.
“If I am being completely honest, playing two sports competitively was a little difficult. Ever since middle school my weekends would consist of five, six-hour softball practices as well as playing a minimum of three softball games and then having to change in the car to get ready for a couple of basketball games or sometimes even more,” she said. “Though I am proud to say that despite the many social events I missed or trips with friends I couldn’t go on because I had responsibility to my team and teammates to be present, I never wanted to throw in the towel.”
Del Castillo’s parents, Bruce and Veronica, have been there every step of the way.
“My parents have always been my biggest supporters and my biggest critics,” she noted. “They have pushed me to be the player I am today and I thank them for my work ethic, dedication and determination.”
Vicky Oganyan played prep basketball at Glendale and more recently Glendale Community College and is the longtime Burroughs girls’ hoop coach.
“Dyani brings incredible hustle and energy for us and impacts multiple areas of our team play including rebounding, steals, defense and scoring,” she said. “Her ability to knock down outside shots and drive to the basket helped our team offensively and made her a first team All-Pacific League selection.”
Del Castillo is like a coach on the floor. “What makes Dyani even more special is her coachability, unselfishness, drive and clearly evident passion for the game as she always has a smile on her face when playing,” Oganyan said. “We are definitely going to miss coaching such an amazing athlete, but most importantly person.”
Proficient in both, does Del Castillo, who also collected second team all-league, honorable mention and the Student-Athlete Award, favor one sport over the other?
“Over the years I would ask myself this same question and my answer would be different every time,” she admitted. “It was always hard for me to consider giving up one sport over the other because I was so content with playing both that I just couldn’t choose. Currently, I would say that I enjoy softball more because I am more confident in my abilities on the field as opposed to the court and I do want to continue my softball career in college.”
Is one sport more enjoyable for Del Castillo?
“I wouldn’t say one sport is more fun to play than the other because I enjoy competing in both,” she said. “Softball is a bit slow compared to basketball, but each sport offers different challenges.”
Del Castillo continued: “Being a pitcher makes softball more exciting for me because I am constantly working one pitch at a time, trying to read my batters and remember what pitch sequences I’ve pitched to each individual batter and really focusing in on the location of the pitch and the spin of the ball,” she said. “Basketball is the total opposite where it is just a go, go, go, mentality, so you don’t really have time to think about a bad play you just made. You have to move on to the next and trust your instincts.”
Both sports are special and unique in their own way. “Regardless of the pace of each game, both sports require mental toughness and I think that is something I have improved on from my freshman year to my senior year,” Del Castillo said.
Though basketball and softball require different skill sets, Del Castillo approaches each with passion.
“My mental and physical approach are the same for both sports,” she said. “My intent when I walk on the field or the court is to give it my all in every game as if it was my last and to always compete to my fullest potential. The end result of each game will always change, but my determination to be better than I was in the previous game in either sport never changes.”
Rivalry games are especially fun, but they can be nerve-wracking.
“Preparing for a game against our rival Burbank definitely comes with a lot of pressure because everyone gets hyped for that matchup,” Del Castillo said. “I feel like the biggest difference between playing Burbank and another team in the league are the fans. Burbank-Burroughs games are always crowded with fans screaming and cheering, so for me I just really try to focus on the game regardless of the background noise.”
One basketball contest stood out in this long-standing rivalry for Del Castillo, who averaged 12 points and seven rebounds with 2.6 steals as a junior during league action.
“I remember my freshman year I was starting my first Burbank-Burroughs game and I was really nervous because I wanted to do well, but I just let the pressure get to me,” she said. “Well, one of my teammates [senior Jenny Galvan] took me to the bathroom during pregame and gave me a little pep talk. Honestly, she calmed me down a lot and I ended up performing really well in that game.”
One of Del Castillo’s two high moments occurred against the Bulldogs.
“One of my career highlights for basketball was last year against Arcadia when I ended the game with 20 points on eight of 11 shooting and made four of five three-pointers,” she recalled. “A career highlight for softball was pitching well in the Burbank-Burroughs game my sophomore year.”
Knowing what Del Castillo’s strengths are makes her presence invaluable.
“When playing a basketball game, my best assets are my three-point shot, the ability to play a whole game without being winded and my willingness to dive for loose balls,” she said. “In softball, my best assets are my overhand throw, my ability to throw a drop curve and l can also hit the ball pretty good.”
Even when the situation is difficult and precarious, Del Castillo wants to keep upbeat.
“I do try my best to lead by example whenever I am on the court or the field. Positive energy is very contagious, so I try to stay as positive as possible regardless of what’s going on in the game. Pushing forward is where it’s at,” she said. “Both sports are a team effort so I always set out to take the field and court with a positive attitude in an attempt to lead by example and contribute in any way I can to help my team achieve a win.”
Del Castillo’s time on the Burroughs campus is coming to a close, but it will always be a special place.
“There are so many things I’m going to miss when it comes to high school sports. Being a part of the basketball program for four years has really been a huge part of my life,” she said. “Coach [V]icky and coach [Art] Sullivan, along with all the other coaches have made the girls’ basketball program such a great place to be and it really is going to be hard to say goodbye. They have helped me with so much regarding not only the game of basketball, but life lessons as well. I left each practice with a little more knowledge than the day before.”
Del Castillo went on: “I have become more tough mentally and physically because both coaches never failed to push me to work harder. Our conditioning trainer, coach Rick [Lucero] has also played a huge role in making me better throughout the years,” she pointed out. “I would go home so tired from the sets we do that the next morning I already felt the soreness from the workout. These workouts have taught me to push harder than ever before.”
Del Castillo is melancholy about her senior campaign and is hopeful to play sports as the coronavirus lays low.
“I am excited to play for him [Nicol] again, but saddened that this will be my last opportunity. Being a part of the Burroughs sports programs has truly been an amazing experience and my teammates in both sports are people that I am truly going to miss,” she said. “Both softball and basketball coaches put team camaraderie above anything else so I am truly grateful to have built such strong bonds over the years. I will always cherish the memories I made here at Burroughs. They will stick with me forever.”