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Grad wins division III hoops championship in first year as assistant coach

By Jordan Lumsden
On May 7, 2018

Former Castleton University basketball player Casey McGraw poses with the Division III national championship trophy he helped guide his Nebraska-Weslyan team to winning as assistant coach.

Castleton University graduate Casey McGraw has a list of goals that sits on his nightstand so when he wakes up in the morning he literally stares his goals in the face.

National Champion was one goal he was able to cross off that list in 2018.

In his first year as an assistant coach at the University of Nebraska-Wesleyan, McGraw crossed off one of the biggest items on the list – helping coach a Division III national champion.

“I wouldn’t let myself believe it,” McGraw said in a recent interview. “I really didn’t get emotional until I got back to my house.”

McGraw coached as a graduate assistant coach at New England College last season. He left New England College and moved to Nebraska to take the job at Nebraska-Wesleyan, something he said he couldn’t have done without the support of his family.

“They’re awesome and they get it. They know where I want to be. While it’s not the most glamorous job in the world, they’ve supported me all the way,” McGraw said.

McGraw traces his success at Nebraska-Wesleyan to his friend and former Nebraska Wesleyan assistant, Tyler Ackley.

“From a career standpoint, I wouldn’t be here because I wouldn’t know Dale Wellman. I would have no idea who he was, he would have no idea who I was,” McGraw said.

He added that Ackley, who is a fellow Castleton Alumni and currently coaching at Colby College, is a friend and mentor. McGraw said that the conversations the two have while breaking down film and talking out different situations while sitting on the couch during recruiting visits make him not only a better coach, but also a better person.

“It felt like a seamless transition from one Castleton grad to the next,” said Nebraska Wesleyan head coach Dale Wellman about hiring McGraw. “He was the guy I went to first because I felt comfortable.”

McGraw helped with recruiting and especially scouting, specifically in the short time frame between games during their national championship run, according to Wellman.

Paul Culpo, who coached McGraw and is the current head coach of Castleton University men’s basketball, isn’t surprised to see McGraw successful in the college coaching ranks and said he’s very proud.

“He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached. He knew his position, he knew the other four positions on the court so certainly him segueing into coaching is not a surprise,” Culpo said.

Both Culpo and Wellman agreed that McGraw’s knowledge of the game and his ability to pick up information quickly plays a key factor in his basketball intelligence.

Wellman said his communication skills also make him very effective

“He can watch basketball and really understand what’s going on and make sure I know what’s going on,” Wellman said.

Yes winning is nice, especially in your first year, but McGraw said he’s not going to change how he approaches each day.

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