March Madness With A St. Rita Flavor

By: Ed Leiser '04

We often say that “St. Rita alumni go on to do great things in life” and as college basketball’s “March Madness” nears, we are extremely proud to say that again. Just as several St. Rita graduates participated in college football’s bowl season (either as players or coaches), this year’s March Madness for NCAA Men’s basketball will have a noticeable St. Rita flare.

Three young Ritamen will be experiencing the madness first-hand, as their teams have completed exciting regular seasons, and are poised to make some noise in this year’s tournament. We are proud of Tony Hicks ’12 (Louisville Cardinals), Vic Law ’14 (Northwestern Wildcats) and Charles Matthews ’15 (Michigan Wolverines) on enjoying stellar college careers so far.

For Hicks, a South Holland native, his road to Louisville and March Madness was not without a prior stop, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, at that. Hicks (the Catholic League Lawless Award winner for top senior while at St. Rita) originally enrolled at Penn University of the Ivy League. There, he was a three-year starter and double-digit per-game scorer for the Quakers, but due to a coaching change before his senior year, he opted to put basketball on hold for a year—and save his fourth year of eligibility for an eventual transfer. He would go on to graduate from Penn in May, 2016, and truly opted for the “best of both worlds” approach, when he transferred to Louisville to play for legendary coach Rick Pitino and one of the nation’s top programs. 

Due to an NCAA rule, he was able to play immediately without having to sit for a year.  For his one and only year as a Louisville Cardinal, Hicks has averaged over 10 minutes-per-game and four points-per-game in scoring. He will have the option to pursue playing basketball professionally after this year, or fall back on his Ivy League education and Penn degree.  Both options will be well-deserved for Hicks, and St. Rita is proud of all his accomplishments to date!

A former teammate of Tony Hicks while at St. Rita, Vic Law (also of South Holland) was a consensus Top-100 prospect coming out of St. Rita his senior year. Ranked as the No. 88 player in the country by 247sports.com, Law entertained offers from places like Florida State, Stanford, Michigan State, and several other ACC, Pac-12 and Big-10 schools. In the end, it was the lure of playing for the Northwestern Wildcats (and up-and-coming coach, Chris Collins) that sold Vic on heading north to Evanston. To get a Northwestern education was icing on the cake.

Law was an immediate contributor from the moment he stepped on the court for Northwestern, averaging seven points-per-game in over 24 minutes-per-game during his freshman season. A shoulder surgery sidelined Vic for all of the 2015-16 season, but he has shown no signs of rust in the 2016-17 season, going for over 12 points-per-game in over 32 minutes-per-game so far, while contributing nearly six rebounds-per-game as well. Perhaps most impressive, is that Law (the third leading scorer for the ‘Cats) has helped end a Chicago Cub-like streak of futility, propelling Northwestern to their first ever NCAA Tournament bid!  He was also named First-Team All-Defense in the Big-10 this year, proving he has a well-balanced game for the Wildcats. With two seasons of eligibility left beyond this season, Vic will set his sights on even bigger and better things for his remaining days in Evanston. Like Tony Hicks, St. Rita is very proud of Vic and all of his accomplishments.

A third former Mustang, Charles Matthews, is a member of the Michigan Wolverines, another NCAA tournament-bound team (and a former high school teammate to both Hicks and Law). Matthews is sitting out the 2016-17 season as a Redshirt freshman, after transferring from Kentucky a year ago. Matthews will be eligible for game action next year for the Wolverines and retain three seasons of eligibility. While at St. Rita, Matthews also won the Lawless Award in the Catholic League and was rated the No. 42 overall player in the country, according to ESPN. Matthews’ future is bright, and the St. Rita community looks forward to a few years of battles between his Wolverines and Law’s Wildcats in Big-10 play.

One other former Mustang, Dominique Matthews, from the St. Rita Class of 2014, fell just two games shy of reaching the NCAA Tournament this year as well. The University of Illinois-Chicago guard had a team-high 21 points in a losing effort to UW-Milwaukee in the Horizon League semi-finals. A win in that game (the Flames lost 74-68) plus one more would have secured the UIC men’s team a trip to March Madness. For Dominique, he will have a few years remaining of eligibility as well, and can support his younger brother (Charles) in this year’s tournament! 

Congrats go out not only to these former Mustangs, but all associated with the St. Rita basketball program, led by Head Coach Gary DeCesare. The Mustangs basketball program has appeared in a Sectional Final three out of the last four years (no other Catholic League team can say the same) and remains one of the top programs in Illinois. The St. Rita Family is proud of these former Mustang players and wishes them all the best of luck in the years ahead.  We are thrilled to have not just one—but three former Mustangs involved in the “madness” this year!

St. Rita Holds Foreign Language Expo in Celebration of National Foreign Language Week

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This week, the world languages department at St. Rita celebrated National Foreign Language Week with the Foreign Language Expo. The expo included interactive projects from Latin, French and Spanish classes.  Some of the exhibits featured were student videos in Spanish and in French, puzzles in foreign languages, faculty and staff trivia, poster contest, family tree projects and Don Quijote exhibit, alphabets in different languages and Roman mini villa student projects.  The expo also included a wall of photos from various trips taken by St. Rita students and faculty.  Before entering the expo, students received a passport book that was stamped at each exhibit.  Upon leaving the expo students received international treats made by students in exchange for their passport stamps.

National Foreign Language Week at St. Rita also included the sale of pulseras. The Pulsera Project is a nonprofit organization that educates, empowers, and connects Central American artists with students in more than 1,600 U.S. schools through the sale of colorful handwoven bracelets, or "pulseras" in Spanish.

St. Rita Senior Sean Macander Named A Member of the IHSA All-State Academic Team

By: John Nee '93

St. Rita senior Sean Macander

St. Rita Principal Brendan Conroy was recently notified by the IHSA that senior Sean Macander (St. Barnabas) was chosen to the honorable mention IHSA All-state Academic Team.  He was one of only about 75 seniors in the state that were chosen for this prestigious honor out of nearly 500 nominees. Criteria for the award includes: GPA, class rank, ACT, and participation in at least two IHSA-sponsored sports over the last two years.

Macander has displayed many talents in his days as a Mustang. He was a two-year starter at defensive back for Head Football Coach Todd Kuska '90, and he’ll be a key contributor to Coach Mike Zunica’s baseball team this spring as a more-than-capable arm out of the bullpen.

Despite his talents on the football and baseball fields, Macander excels the most in the classrooms of St. Rita. He currently ranks #6 in the senior class with an eye-popping 4.94 GPA on a 4.00 scale due to the many honors and AP classes he has taken. He also scored a 35 on his ACT which will provide an opportunity for him to go to any college in the country that he chooses and probably at a pretty steep discount.

At this point, Macander’s plan is to study engineering in college. He is considering Washington University (St. Louis), Carnegie Mellon, The University of Notre Dame, and The University of Texas.  

St. Rita High School Remembers The Life of CPD Officer Thomas J. Kelly '61

St. Rita Alumnus Officer Thomas J. Kelly '61 died from a gunshot wound inflicted during a routine traffic stop on March 3, 1970.

Officer Kelly and his partner observed a traffic violation and stopped a car with two men at 360 E. 44th Street. As they approached the car, Officer Kelly stood outside as his partner searched the interior. Suddenly, one of the vehicle's occupants pulled a gun, fatally wounding Patrolman Kelly. Upon hearing the gunshots, his partner tried to draw his weapon but was struck twice before he could return fire. When then attempted to shoot Kelly's partner a third time, their gun misfired and they escaped on foot. Officer Kelly was transported to Provident Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Thomas J. Kelly '61

St. Rita of Cascia, pray for us.

St. Rita Celebrates National Foreign Language Week (March 6 - 10)

The St. Rita World Languages Department is pleased to announce National Foreign Language Week (March 6 - 10) activities. The department has organized daily scavenger hunts, trivia, poster contest, international menu in the Dining Hall, sale of bracelets through a grass-roots organization called "Pulsera Project", prayers in Latin, French and Spanish at our weekly Mass. Travel trivia/photos from faculty and staff will also be shared.

Finally, the largest celebration will be the Foreign Language Expo on Thursday, March 9 in the Van Leuven Center. Foreign language students will display projects they have worked on in their foreign language classes and there will also be some interactive activities and international treats served as well. Each student will be supplied with a "passport" to move around and visit different exhibits. After they have several stamps in passports, they can go to the treats table at the end.