PITTSBURGH, Pa. – No one has enjoyed Duquesne’s surprising 12-4 start to the season more than graduate student Rene Castro-Caneddy.
Having just celebrated his 24th birthday yesterday, the 6-foot-2 guard has already experienced a lot in his college career. For starters, he’s played for four different coaches.
“It (this season) means a lot because of how hard I’ve worked,” Castro-Caneddy said. “I finally see the vision where I am a key part of the team and we’re winning. I haven’t been part of a winning college team yet so this is the best.”
He originally committed to play college basketball for Brad Stevens at Butler, but Stevens jetted for the NBA before Castro-Caneddy ever arrived on campus. The Boston, Massachusetts, native honored his commitment, though, and played as a freshman for Steven’s replacement, Brandon Miller. Yet he never seemed to embrace Miller or the program—he was suspended on two separate occasions—and elected to transfer after just 12 games.
A three-star recruit in high school, Castro-Caneddy took an official visit to the Bluff in 2012 and was also strongly considering Pitt and George Washington. Upon announcing his intention to transfer from Butler, Castro-Caneddy contacted many of the schools that sought his services as a high schooler. He ultimately chose to play for Jim Ferry and the Dukes.
He sat out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA transfer rules and primarily served in a backup role for Duquesne the last two years. When Ferry was dismissed last spring, Castro-Caneddy applied for a transfer waiver, not sure of what his new role will be under first-year head coach Keith Dambrot.
Dambrot met with Castro-Caneddy to share his vision, and the graduate senior elected to stay. It’s been the best decision for both parties, as Castro-Caneddy has flourished under the first-year head coach.
He’s started every game this season while averaging a career-high 13.6 and racking up a team-best 56 assists. After having just one 20-point performance in his first two seasons in a Dukes uniform, Castro-Caneddy has registered four such games this season, including a game-high 21 in the team’s throttling of Fordham on Saturday. He was 8-10 from the floor and 3-5 from behind the arc. He’s reached double-figures in all three Atlantic 10 games.
“I’ve just worked really hard,” Castro-Caneddy said. “I prepared myself really hard this offseason to make my senior season special. I’ve grown a lot.”
His coach echoed those thoughts. Dambrot guessed Castro-Caneddy was making roughly 45 percent of his shots on the shooting gun in practice when the coaching staff arrived. He said that number is now closer to 77 percent.
“Rene has come early every day,” Dambrot said. “So he’s getting what you deserve. When you’re a reasonably good player and you put time in, good things will happen.”
Castro-Caneddy has connected on seven of his first 15 threes in league play and ranks third on the team in made triples (28) behind Mike Lewis II (45) and Eric Williams Jr (29).
“I’ve really focused on winning and producing to help my team,” Castro-Caneddy said of his improvement. “The coaches just kept believing in me.”
That belief has paid big dividends for Dambrot and his staff. With Castro-Caneddy leading the way, the Dukes have transformed from a feel-good story into an A-10 contender over the last month.
Rene Castro-Caneddy with 10 this half https://t.co/v8Z2zvPCSX
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) January 6, 2018
Castro-Caneddy mirrors his coach in many respects, and the two have formed a close relationship. Dambrot spoke highly of his eldest guard following the team’s 17-point home victory over George Washington last week.
“Rene’s has that strong-ness to him around the rim,” Dambrot said. “He’s got a funny game where you don’t think he can get it up there, but he gets it up there…he’s playing like he was recruited out of high school.”
After everything Castro-Caneddy has been through, he’s embraced his new coach’s fighting mentality, and the Dukes are reaping the benefits.
“To just keep fighting through adversity,” Castro-Caneddy said. “I’ve had a tough career over the years. He kind of gave me a fresh start, and he had his little troubles early on before he became very successful. Just keep fighting through adversity and never quit.”