By: John Nee '93
On Sunday afternoon, May 7, 2017, at Beverly Country Club, the entire St. Rita Basketball Program came together to celebrate their success this season at their annual awards banquet. The keynote speaker was former Duke University guard and current Head Basketball Coach at Marquette University Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski.
Coach “Wojo” emphasized to the St. Rita basketball players in attendance to use basketball as a vehicle to college. He was a McDonald’s All-American high school player who earned a scholarship to play for Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. “Wojo” then joined the Duke staff where he spent 15 years as an assistant before taking over the Marquette program 3 seasons ago.
Former St. Rita Head Basketball Coach John Bonk ’75 was also in attendance to help induct two of his former players, Rashay Russell ’03 and Michael Rembert ’03, into the St. Rita Basketball Hall of Fame. Coach Bonk spoke of the high character of both inductees and the impact that each of them had on him and the entire St. Rita Basketball Program as they led the 2003 team to St. Rita’s first Catholic League Basketball Championship since 1970.
Freshman Dalen Horace, sophomore Myles Montague, and senior Paul Kingsley each spoke on their teams’ seasons thanking their teammates and coaches for a great experience. Head Coach Gary DeCesare then announced the award winners for this season.
The following members of the basketball program were recognized for special awards:
Fr. McNicholas Basketball Award
Senior Team Managers Justin Perdue and Bobby Gikas
Mike Zunica Sportsmanship Award
Freshmen Joe Vidmar and Zenin Hall, Sophomore Frankie Zoller, Junior Ray Falk
Coach Ed Galvin Basketball Achievement Award
Senior Rashaad Williams
St. Rita Mustang Award
Pat Connolly, Chuck Caffrey
Coach Barney Badke Basketball Award
Senior Te’Mon Green
Coach Jim Prunty Most Improved Player Award
Senior Phillip McGuire
Coach John Bonk Dedication Award
Senior Manager Gary DeCesare
Tom Hopkins Leadership Award
Senior Manager TJ DeCesare
Fr. Tom McCarthy Academic Award
Senior Paul Kingsley
By: John Nee '93
On Saturday, May 6, 2017, the St. Rita community came out in full force to honor retiring head baseball coach Mike Zunica. In a moving, hour-long, pre-game ceremony Zunica was honored for his 21 years of service to St. Rita of Cascia High School as Head Baseball Coach. Zunica, who is retiring at the conclusion of the 2017 season to allow him to follow his son’s baseball career at Kansas University, will remain at St. Rita as President.
During the ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of family, friends, former players, and former teammates and coaches, it was announced by St. Rita Chairman of the Board of Directors Ernie Mrozek that the St. Rita Baseball Field beginning with the 2018 season would forever be known as Mike Zunica Field. Zunica’s #13 was also retired and a special gift was presented to him by his coaching staff, a state-of-the-art hand-made rocking chair made of baseball bats commemorating his years of service.
Zunica then gave an emotional 25-minute speech thanking his parents, family, friends, and coaching staff before finishing with a touching tribute to the St. Rita Community, thanking them for accepting an “outsider” as he referred to himself and embracing him as a Rita guy.
As for the game, junior catcher Jake Zylman provided some early offense by cracking his fourth homer in the last five games, a grand slam down the right field line in the bottom of the first to give the Mustangs an early 4-0 lead. After Loyola scored two in the third and three in the fourth to tie the score at five, senior centerfielder Charlie Rodriguez cracked a two-run shot to right to give the Mustangs the lead for good. Senior Steve Washilewski then put the icing on the proverbial celebratory cake by cracking a three-run homer to deep left in the bottom of the sixth to provide the 12-5 winning margin. Sophomore Logan Strutz was great in relief picking up the win while throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
The Catholic League Blue win capped off a very special day for the entire baseball program and particularly Mike Zunica and his family. It was a fitting tribute for the all-time wins leader in St. Rita Baseball history. It was a day neither Zunica nor his family will ever forget!
Gary DeCesare followed his heart when he filled out his NCAA March Madness bracket sheet.
The St. Rita basketball coach has Louisville and Northwestern advancing to the Final Four of the men's basketball tournament.
DeCesare has a vested interest in those picks.
St. Rita graduates Tony Hicks (2012) and Vic Law (2014) are players on those teams. Law plays for Northwestern (23-11), which plays Vanderbilt (19-15) at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, and Hicks is with Louisville (24-8), which plays Jacksonville State (20-14) at 1:45 p.m. Friday.
Joey Filomeno is in a great place these days, both physically and mentally.
When we talked Thursday, he had just finished golfing. He scored a 95 or, like he put it, "10 strokes higher" than the 85 he produced Wednesday.
A few hours later Thursday, he would be sitting in the bullpen for the Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas Rangers' Class AA affiliate.
"I'm going from playing the second-most frustrating game in the world to the most frustrating game in the world," Filomeno said with a laugh.
On the baseball field, the frustrations have been few and far between this season for Filomeno, a 2011 St. Rita graduate who's been dominant for the RoughRiders.
The left-handed pitcher attributes much of that to being in the shape of his life, tipping the scales at 230 pounds — or 25 less than his high school days.
He's also regained the confidence that deserted him during a frustrating three-year collegiate career at Louisville that produced a 2-3 record and 6.04 ERA.
It didn't prevent the Rangers from drafting the Cicero native in the 15th round in 2014.
Recently, Todd Kuska '90, St. Rita High School's Head Football Coach, attended a charity event affiliated with Bears Care. According to the Chicago Bears website, Bears Care is the charitable beneficiary of the Chicago Bears. It organizes and partners in several fundraising events throughout the year, helping to improve the lives of people in the Chicagoland area through youth athletics and other causes.
At the event, Coach Kuska presented Chicago Bears Alshon Jefferey, Zach Miller and Pat O'Donnell with official St. Rita Mustangs Football hats!
Chicago – Todd Kuska ‘90 just completed his 17th season at the helm of the St. Rita Mustang Football Program. In that time he has become the all-time winningest coach in St. Rita Football history amassing over 150 wins, six Catholic League Championships, four state quarterfinal appearances, four state semi-final appearances, three Prep Bowl titles, and the 2006 Class 7A State Championship. In recognition of these achievements, he will be inducted into the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame Class of 2015 on May 7 in McCook, Illinois.
St. Rita High School President Ernie Mrozek ’71 said, “Todd is an exemplary role model for our students. His actions in the classroom and on the field set the example for all well-rounded Ritaman.”
Brendan Conroy, St. Rita Principal added, “I congratulate Todd, because this is an award not only for the football coach he is, but for the leader of young men he is–both on the field and off the field.”
Kuska, a 1990 St. Rita graduate, was also a standout player in his days at St. Rita. He was a starter in both his junior and senior seasons for arguably two of the best football teams in St. Rita history. The Mustangs finished the 1988 and 1989 regular seasons with perfect 9-0 records, losing in the state semi-finals in 1988 and in the 2nd round in 1989. In Kuska’s senior year he was named team captain, and he earned All-Catholic League honors at guard, in addition to being an Illinois State Scholar and a Student Council Officer.
St. Rita Athletic Director, and fellow Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame member Mike Zunica said, “It’s always great to see one of our own go into the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame, especially a guy like Todd, who is being recognized not only for his amazing accomplishments on the gridiron, but also for being a great teacher and great man.”
“The most fulfilling part of my job is getting to work with kids who came to St. Rita for the same reasons that I did–tradition, brotherhood, and a great education. Playing and coaching in the Chicago Catholic League is an honor by itself. To be inducted into the CCL Hall of Fame is a huge honor. I can’t think of any higher honor one could achieve in my profession,” said Kuska.
Check out this excellent article from the Boston Globe about Darius Fleming ’08 and his days growing up as a St. Rita student on the south side!