By Rick Assad
When the Burbank High girls’ basketball team trotted onto the hardwood, everyone in the building knew that at some point in the game, Bri Castro would launch one of her patented three-pointers.
When the first one trickled through the net, and they did 35 percent of the time during her senior season, the result would be that the Bulldogs student body rose from its seats behind hearty cheers, while the four other members of the squad and Castro herself, were wholly pumped.
At this juncture, fans and players realized that a big scoring game was possible and that Castro would unload the long-ball whenever she saw daylight. And even when there wasn’t much space to shoot.
This past season, Castro, a 5-foot, five-inch shooting guard, set the single game school mark for most three-pointers made in a game with nine.
Castro, who played three years on the varsity, also established the Burbank record for most three-pointers converted in a career.
What made Castro so good at drilling three-pointers was that she was able to get off the shot quickly, especially during transitions.
And let’s be clear, Castro, who could also drive the lane and settle for easier shots, but found a home beyond the three-point arc, wasn’t shy about hoisting her long-range bombs which could turn a deficit into a scoring run or add to a lead.
“My role on the team was to be the shooter,” said Castro, who averaged 12 points per game this past season, which led to her being named All-Pacific League second-team despite the squad not making the CIF Southern Section playoffs after going 10-18 overall and 3-11 in league play.
Castro said that even if the trey wasn’t finding the hoop, she was sure it would eventually.
“I would also go in [to a game] confident that my shots will hit,” said Castro, who averaged five rebounds, one steal and two deflections a game as a senior and drilled 65 percent from the free-throw line.
Whether it was shooting the basketball or coming away with a victory, Castro was always confident.
“Before a game, I was always thinking we are going to win,” she said. “I never went into a game with a losing mentality because that won’t be good for the team.”
In the other two seasons that Castro was on the varsity, the Bulldogs went 15-13 and 6-8 in league and 10-18 and 5-9 in league and didn’t qualify for the postseason.
As a junior, Castro scored about nine points a game and as a sophomore, she knocked in just under seven points.
While the spring sports were wiped out because of COVID-19, the basketball season was spared the same fate.
Burbank coach Jett Del Mundo spent two seasons with Castro and felt she set the offensive tone for the team and developed into a solid all-around player.
“In the short time that we were together, Bri went from a one dimensional spot-up shooter who didn’t know what it meant to play championship defense to a more complete player who played on both sides of the ball,” he said.
How was Castro able to transform herself into being more than just a long-range jump shooter?
For Del Mundo, it was sweat and dedication. “She put the work in at our team practices and put in time on her own, committing herself to becoming a more complete shooter who can not only hit the open three, but also relocate and attack the basket,” he said.
Del Mundo went on: “In doing so, Bri not only put herself in the conversation of All-Pacific League players in her senior season, she also became the focal point of our team offense,” he said. “I consider her a Top Three shooter amongst every opponent we played this past season and rightfully earned every accolade in her final season.”
Castro, who will attend college, but isn’t sure which, and likewise isn’t positive she’ll play basketball, concurred with her coach.
“The best part of my game besides my shots were my passes,” she said. “I believe I always gave the ball into my posts whenever I saw them available. My defense also improved this year.”
Even without having gone to the CIF playoffs, Del Mundo believes during Castro’s tenure at Burbank, she and the other seniors set in motion better and brighter days for the Bulldogs.
“We are confident that we are building in the right direction,” he said. “Any future success started with Bri’s class.”
One thing Castro enjoyed was helping the underclassmen players. “I liked being one of the team leaders because I loved being that support to the younger girls and always help them if they need something,” she said.
Castro said she will have fond memories of her time on the basketball court. “Looking back at my high school career, I will mainly remember the relationships I built on the court with many of the girls,” she said. “They were such a great group of girls to play with from beginning to end.”
While every game was taken seriously, especially in league play, few were more exciting and compelling than when Burbank met Burroughs because it brought out students from both schools, family and friends, cheerleaders and the bands.
“Playing Burroughs was different each year, but I’ll always remember those games,” she said.
Castro said playing hoops for four years including the junior varsity as a freshman, was an enjoyable experience.
“I liked basketball because it was a fun getaway from reality and I got to be active,” she noted.
Castro also has some sage words of wisdom for first-year players. “Advice I’d give an incoming freshman is to play their game,” she said. “Find ways to improve it. Also to give it their all on and off the court.”
Castro’s father, Steve, was also vital in her enjoyment of the game. “My dad was my main reason for playing the sport, so I’d say he was my family inspiration, but Steph[en] Curry was my inspiration for the sole fact that he can shoot, which is exactly what I do,” she said.