By Jordyn Matez
While FGCU basketball newcomers, freshman Caleb Catto and redshirt senior Schadrac Casimir, are new to the hype around FGCU basketball, they both agree that it’s not too far from anything they’ve experienced before.
Both Catto and Casimir have been playing basketball about as long as they can remember — and both agree that basketball has been the center of their life since the moment they put on a jersey.
Casimir grew up in Stamford, Connecticut and, according to Casimir, began playing basketball because it was the most popular pastime where he lived.
“Where I was from that’s all everybody was doing, so it was all I really saw growing up,” Casimir said. “I just did what everyone in the neighborhood did.”
Catto, who grew up in Cape Coral, said that he had a similar experience with being surrounded by basketball. Catto’s father is a basketball coach and would frequently have Catto and his older brother tag along to practices until both boys decided they wanted to begin playing as well.
“We were kinda pulled into it and then we fell in love ourselves,” Catto said. “It’s kind of a family thing I guess you could say”
Playing basketball for the majority of one’s life comes with hardships, however.
For Casimir, these hardships came in the form of injuries. In the beginning of his sophomore year at Iona College, Casimir played four games before having to take the rest of the season off due to hip injuries. Three surgeries later, Casimir attends FGCU as a redshirt senior with one year of eligibility left. Casimir, a guard, also mentioned that his height puts him at a disadvantage in Division-I play.
“Being so small [is a hardship],” Casimir said. “I’m only 5’8, so it’s tough to play division-I.”
Catto, who is a true freshman beginning his collegiate career with FGCU, mentioned that he was thankful to never have had faced any physical adversities. For him, the hardships originated from the state-of-mind that athletes are expected to live by.
“I think being an athlete is definitely a mental challenge, regardless of what sport you
play,” Catto said. “Life’s life – you’re going to go through challenges and hardships, it’s just how you react.”
This state of mind is especially necessary for newcomers like Catto and Casimir.
New players on the FGCU basketball team are held to just as high of a standard as the veteran players. While this can be hard on any player, Casimir believes that his past experience on a collegiate team aided him in fitting in with the team.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, because you know you’re going into a new situation,” Casimir said. “But I have a lot of experience, so I kind of knew what I was getting into.”
Catto added in that the nervous feeling is mutual as a freshman coming into the team, but guys like Casimir give him the help he needs to keep up with the pressure.
“It was definitely an adjustment,” Catto said. “You’re going from one thing to the next, your whole day is filled.”
While this opportunity might approach one player sooner than the other, both Catto and Casimir agreed that they would easily take any opportunity to play professionally.
Casimir, who only has one season of eligibility left as a collegiate basketball player, said that going pro has been his basketball goal since he began playing. As a graduate student in public advising, however, Casimir knows there will come a time when he must hang up his jersey.
“You can’t play forever,” Casimir said. “Eventually the ball stops bouncing, that’s when education comes in”
Casimir graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and noted that his career path is currently “all over the map”. While he could see himself writing sports and covering sports events, he also knows that his dream career would have to do with working closely with children.
Catto, a sports management major, similarly has no defined plan following his collegiate career, and that it’s one of his hopes to travel the world before settling.
All future plans aside, both players have a stacked record when it comes to playing basketball.
While Catto hasn’t racked up any collegiate stats yet, his four years as a varsity basketball player at Southwest Florida Christian High School proved to be quite eventful. Over 106 games total, Catto averaged 18.1 points per game, 4.8 assists per game and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Casimir, who played for Iona College in New York, also has a colorful record, regardless of his sophomore injury setback. In 106 career games in Iona, Casimir scored 1,112 total points, with over half of them attributing to his 2015 total 3-pointers. He held an 87.8 percent free-throw record for a total of 231 of 263 free-throw attempts being successful. Casimir’s time at Iona helped the team to three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and he intends to help lead FGCU to their fourth.
“To be honest, Iona and FGCU have a lot of similarities as far as goals,” Casimir said. “They’re really serious about winning championships.”
Regardless of the fact that Casimir has collegiate experience under his belt, both him and Catto have been spending their first semester at FGCU falling into the groove of being collegiate athletes at FGCU.
Both players wake up at around 6 a.m. for weight training with the rest of the team. Following weights, the team heads to either class or study hall to log a certain amount of required study hours based on their academic standing. Following this, some members of the team only have time for a quick bite to eat before heading to Alico Arena for a 12:15 practice that lasts until 3 p.m. After practice, the team parts ways to attend more classes, like Catto, or log more hours in study hall, like Casimir.
“By the time we get home it’s around 8:00 p.m., so it’s a pretty busy day,” Catto said. “It’s definitely a lot different from high school. This is what we’re doing 12-14 hours out of our day or so.”
Regardless of the fact that their days are so busy and basketball is sometimes favored over meals, Catto and Casimir both know that they’re right where they’re meant to be.
“I wouldn’t say it was hard,” Catto said of his transition to playing collegiate basketball. “Having guys like Schadrac and all those guys around us freshmen, they give us good advice and show us the ropes.”