Physically, St. Rita's Jordan Matthews hasn't changed much from last season.
He's still supremely fit.
His exceptional basketball skills — dribbling, defending, decision-making and driving to the basket — remain at a level few other point guards in the Southland can match.
Mentally, however, the 6-foot, 170-pound combo guard is a different kid.
"Everything has changed from that standpoint," he said. "My work ethic has changed. I'm more of a leader. I'm making these guys (teammates) go hard harder and, in turn, that's pushing me to go harder.
"There's no slacking off this year. We know how good we can be."
By: John Nee '93
St. Rita Head Basketball Coach Gary DeCesare is back in his native New York City this weekend to be inducted in New York’s Catholic High School Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame.
In his 16 years at the helm of his alma mater St. Raymond’s in the Bronx, DeCesare compiled a career record of 288-139 overall. He has coached over 30 D1 basketball players and countless D2 and D3 players. Four of his former players have gone on to play in the NBA (Ernest Brown, Terrence Rencher, Julius Hodge, and Allen Ray) and many more have gone on to play overseas.
Throughout his illustrious career at St. Raymond’s, Coach DeCesare won four CHSAA City Championships (1991, 1993, 2000, and 2001) and two New York State Federation Titles (1993, 2001). In addition, DeCesare was a three-time New York Coach of the Year recipient.
At St. Rita, DeCesare has continued his run of success leading the Mustang Basketball Program to unprecedented heights never before achieved in the school’s 112-year history. He has led the Running Mustangs to three regional championships (2014, 2015, and 2017) and four Catholic League championships (2012-2015).
St. Rita Head Basketball Coach Gary DeCesare, who led the Mustangs to a (19-11) record and a berth in the Class 3A sectional championship game, has been named Boys Basketball District 3 Coach of the Year for the 2016-2017 season.
DeCesare has been recognized as District 3 Coach of the Year three times in the last four years for leading his Running Mustangs to three sectional championship game appearances (the first three in St. Rita Basketball history).
In his tenure at St. Rita after a successful run as Head Coach at St. Raymond’s in the Bronx, DeCesare has led St. Rita to four Catholic League Championships (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) and Regional Championships (2014, 2015, 2017). The Mustangs return several key players for the 2017-2018 season as they expect to be one of the top teams in the Chicago Catholic League.
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
Seated near the scorer's table, Gary DeCesare glanced to his left, then to this right before cracking a slight smile of approval.
The St. Rita coach has had his share of high-major talents through the years, most recently Charles Matthews and Vic Law at the all-boys South Side school, as well as former McDonald's All-Americans Julius Hodge, Majestic Mapp and Kareem Reid from his days coaching in the Bronx, N.Y.
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.
By: John Nee '93
On Wednesday night St. Rita hosted its first-ever sectional basketball game, and Coach Gary DeCesare’s “Running Mustangs” did not disappoint the partisan crowd. With assistance from the “Mustang Maniacs,” St. Rita outlasted a tough Bogan squad 72-68 to advance to Friday’s sectional championship game against Morgan Park.
St. Rita jumped out to a 40-32 lead at half over the Bengals, who had a win over Simeon on their resume and was the #2 seed in the sectional. The sixth-seeded Mustangs used a 24-13 advantage in the second quarter to open up the eight-point halftime lead, in front of a capacity crowd.
The third quarter was all Bogan as they quickly jumped on the young St. Rita squad opening up a six-point lead late in the quarter. A late flurry by the Mustangs closed the gap to one (54-53) at the end of the third energizing the St. Rita crowd.
The fourth quarter saw several lead changes as the level of play picked up considerably. St. Rita and Bogan matched each other basket for basket in the quarter until the game was finally decided in the final minutes.
With 1:33 to play, freshman guard Alec Millender hit a five-foot jumper off the glass to give the Mustangs a 65-64 lead. Then after a big stop by the St. Rita defense, senior first-team All Catholic League selection Rashaad Williams (19 points) hit a dagger three-pointer from the corner to give the Mustangs a 68-64 lead. After two Bengal free throws cut their deficit to two, resurgent senior Te’mon Green (11 points) drove to the basket and scored to bring the St. Rita lead back to four with just seconds to play.
Junior guard Jordan Matthews (19 points), who had several key drives in a fourth quarter that saw him score 8 points, hit two free throws with under a second to play to secure the win for the Mustangs.
St. Rita now plays Morgan Park Friday night in the sectional championship game 7:00 p.m. at St. Rita. The Mustangs will be seeking their first-ever sectional championship after having advanced to the title game on two previous occasions (2014, 2015). It is expected to be another capacity crowd, so fans are encouraged to arrive early.
By: John Nee '93
St. Rita Head Basketball Coach Gary DeCesare has petitioned the IHSA the last few years to remain in Class 4A despite the fact that enrollment would put the Mustangs in Class 3A. This year DeCesare spoke to his coaching staff, and collectively they decided that they would allow the “chips to fall where they may” this season.
St. Rita, therefore, landed in Class 3A, which proved to be no bargain. With the majority of teams from the Chicago Public League making up the sectional, the Mustangs were done no favors by being voted the #6 seed. That meant DeCesare’s squad would have to go on the road to Hyde Park, the #3 seed in the sectional, to win a regional championship.
On Friday night the Mustangs did just that.
After opening up a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter, the Mustangs hung on for dear life and survived the tough road test outlasting the Thunderbirds of Hyde Park 65-63 to capture their third regional championship in the last four years.
Senior sharp-shooter Paul Kingsley led the way for the Mustangs pouring in a game-high 28 points on 10-20 shooting from the field. Seniors Rashaad Williams (14 points) and Te’mon Green (11 points) also contributed for St. Rita.
In a hectic final few minutes, Hyde Park tied the score at 63 with just over a minute to play. Junior Jordan Matthews then drove the length of the floor to give the Mustangs their final lead. The basket was Matthews’ only field goal of the game as he battled through an undisclosed injury throughout the night.
St. Rita now advances to their own sectional along with #1 seed Morgan Park, #2 seed Bogan, and #4 seed Brooks.
The St. Rita Sectional will open up Tuesday night with #1 seed Morgan Park battling #4 seed Brooks at 7:00 pm. The sixth-seeded Mustangs will then take on the #2 seed Bogan Bengals on Wednesday, March 8 at 7:00 p.m. The winners will then meet on Friday, March 10th 7:00 p.m. at St. Rita in the sectional championship game.
By: John Nee '93
It’s not unusual for sophomore teams to compete a bit short-handed. All lower-level coaches know that the varsity is the most important thing when it comes to the program, so they accept the fact that they may be missing a key player or two.
Sophomore Head Coach Roshawn Russell ‘08 knew the varsity team would need some young reinforcements to fill out their roster and rotation, but when six freshman and sophomores made the varsity team out of pre-season camp, it left him a little more than short-handed.
Instead of using it as an excuse to be average, the sophomore team did just the opposite as several players stepped up and took advantage of the opportunity and because of that they came together and captured a championship.
Coach Russell’s 2016-2017 sophomore team was crowned Catholic League South champions by going (8-1) in the league to go along with their (19-4) overall record. In addition, they won the Marian Catholic Christmas Tournament and were consolation champions of the Bremen Thanksgiving Tournament. They had an impressive 8-game winning streak in the middle of the season, and they notched huge non-conference wins over an undefeated Benet Academy squad 41-37, and they defeated a tough Marist squad, handing them their only loss at home, 47-38.
The Mustangs were led in scoring by Daylen Wilson (13 ppg), Myles Montague (12 ppg), and Cinque Simmons (12 ppg). The other members of the team include: Jourdan Jackson, Richard Martin, Vincent Brown, Frankie Zoller, Marc Zavala, Julian Esparaza, Joseph Pater, Anthony McGuire, Javon Cooley, Miles Adams, and Lemone Lampley.
Coach Russell was assisted by his former St. Rita teammate Anthony Rappold ‘08
By: John Nee '93
After suffering a first-round Chicago Catholic League Tournament defeat at the hands of Gene Pingatore and his St. Joseph Chargers last Saturday in Westchester, Coach Gary DeCesare’s young squad did what it has done all season long in this up-and-down 2016-2017 season--bounce back.
The Mustangs regrouped on Sunday at St. Laurence against rival Mt. Carmel. St. Rita rode the hot shooting of senior guard Paul Kingsley (19 points) and the strong play of senior forward Temon Green (18 points, 12 rebounds) to beat the Caravan convincingly for the second time this season by the score of 72-52.
St. Rita continued their strong play on Wednesday night at home as they outlasted a game St. Ignatius squad 57-47. The Mustangs led 23-20 at half as both teams struggled to score in the first 16 minutes of action. DeCesare’s young team then broke out in the third quarter as St. Rita outscored the Wolfpack 19-7 behind the hot shooting of senior guards Kingsley (15 points, 5-9 from 3pt-range) and Rashaad Williams (17 points) to take a commanding 15-point lead heading into the final quarter.
The Mustangs (14-10) now advance to the Chicago Catholic League Tournament Consolation Championship Game on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in Wilmette against DeLaSalle. The game is the first of a tripleheader at Loyola with the CCL third place game between Loyola and Brother Rice at 6:00 p.m. and the Championship game between Fenwick and St. Joseph at 8:00 p.m. St. Rita will then close out their regular season on Tuesday February 21st at home versus East Chicago (IN). Tip-off is 7:00 p.m., and it will be senior night.
By: John Nee '93
Coach Gary DeCesare’s young squad travelled to Wilmette on Tuesday, Feb. 7 for an unusual 5:00 p.m. start versus the Ramblers. Both teams were using this non-conference matchup to prepare for the upcoming Chicago Catholic League tournament, which will start this weekend. The result was another huge road win for St. Rita versus a ranked opponent as the Mustangs hung on for an exciting 50-49 win over #24 Loyola.
The Ramblers came into Tuesday night’s contest as one of the hottest teams in the state, having won 11 of their previous 12 games including a huge win over #10 St. Patrick last week in Evanston at “The War on the Shore” shootout.
The young Mustangs kept the game close throughout versus the veteran Rambler squad as neither team lead by more than four in the first half. St. Rita began to take control of the action in the third quarter as they took a 44-39 lead heading into the fourth.
Lead by junior point guard Jordan Matthews (14 points.) and senior sharp-shooter Paul Kingsley (13 points, 3-8 three-point range), the Mustangs extended to their largest lead of the game 49-42 with just under five minutes to play. However, a huge Rambler three-pointer cut the deficit to four with just over four minutes to play, setting the stage for a frantic finish.
The Mustangs did not record a field goal in the final five minutes in the fourth quarter, but they strung together just enough stops down the stretch to hold onto the 50-49 victory.
According to DeCesare defense was the key to the win. “We guarded down the stretch and hopefully we can get them to carry it over the rest of the season,” said DeCesare.
The Mustangs also received great contributions off the bench from sophomore Stedmon Ihejirika (7 points, 7 rebounds) and junior Landen Gladney (4 points, 7 rebounds). For the game, St. Rita out-rebounded Loyola 30-15.
After the game both teams joined with the residents from Misericordia for a pizza party in the balcony of the Loyola gym.
The Mustangs (12-9) will now move onto the CCL tournament where they will open at St. Joseph on Saturday versus the host Chargers. Tip-off is 5:30 p.m.
By: John Nee '93
Coach Gary DeCesare’s young Mustang hoop squad came into last night’s 8th annual Callahan/Griffin Classic at Marist riding a four-game winning streak but lacking a signature win. That all changed when freshman Joel Watts (15 points, all in the second half) hit a double-pump jumper from the left baseline as time expired to lead St. Rita to an improbable 61-59 win at #14 Marist (20-2).
The Mustangs trailed much of the first half, but behind the hot shooting of senior Paul Kingsley (game-high 24 points on 8-17 shooting from three-point range) St. Rita hung close only trailing 29-25 at the break.
As the third quarter began, the Redhawks looked to seize control as they jumped out to a quick nine-point lead. The young Mustangs, though, refused to go away as they continued to hang close until an exciting 11-0 spurt to end the quarter gave St. Rita their first lead of the contest 43-41 heading into the final frame.
The late third-quarter charge was spearheaded by the freshman Watts as he scored seven straight points to spark the Mustangs to the lead.
The Mustangs looked to take control in the fourth quarter as they jumped out to a 56-50 lead with only a few minutes to play, but DeCesare’s squad showed its youth as some untimely turnovers and fouls down the stretch allowed the veteran Redhawks to tie the game at 59 with just under 30 seconds to play. That set the stage for Watts’ game-winning shot, which came off of a baseline inbounds play with 3.3 seconds after Marist had blocked a shot out of bounds.
St. Rita Senior Paul Kingsley was presented the MVP trophy of the annual classic as St. Rita claimed the travelling trophy for the sixth time in the eight all-time contests.
The Mustangs (11-7, 4-2) will look to win their sixth straight as they travel to Catholic League and Augustinian rival Providence Catholic on Friday night for a 7:00 p.m. tip versus the Celtics.
By: John Nee, '93
Coach Gary DeCesare’s varsity basketball team flew under the radar in the pre-season polls; but a (4-0) start to the season found them ranked in the state’s top 20 with the media calling them the surprise team of the season.
After a tough loss in the ESCC/CCL Challenge to a good Marian Catholic team, the Mustangs struggled over the Christmas break going (2-4) against some tough competition around the country in Louisville and Miami.
Clinging to a (6-5) record, the Mustangs returned home looking to put a stranglehold on the Catholic League South, a division they had won in four of the previous five seasons.
A lackluster effort on the road against St. Laurence and a tough home loss to Brother Rice to begin the second half of the schedule left St. Rita under .500 at (6-7) and at a crossroads in their season.
Things began to change a week ago Friday at St. Francis DeSales as senior Paul Kingsley broke out in a big way scoring 27 points as the Mustangs once again moved back to the .500 mark with a road win over the Pioneers.
That win has springboarded Coach Gary DeCesare’s team to four straight victories with a shot at a signature win tonight at Marist in the annual Callahan/Griffin Classic.
Last Sunday St. Rita followed up their road win at DeSales with a convincing win over Corliss of the Chicago Public League at Thornton High School in the MLK Shootout. Blowout home wins over Rich Central and Catholic League South rival Mt. Carmel with senior Rashaad Williams leading the way last week have set the stage for Tuesday night's huge matchup.
Marist comes into Tuesday’s Callahan/Griffin Classic with a record of (20-1, 4-0) in first place in the always-tough East Suburban Catholic Conference. After dominating the Classic in its first years of existence, St. Rita (10-7) dropped last year’s Classic game at home to the Redhawks. Tuesday’s game will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. in Mount Greenwood.
Head Coach Gary DeCesare has led the Mustangs to four Catholic League Championships in five years and two regional championships in the last three years.
Coach DeCesare brings the Mustangs a wealth of experience at both the collegiate and high school levels. He served as Associate Head Coach at DePaul University for four years as well as three seasons as the Assistant Basketball Coach at the University of Richmond.
Prior to coaching at the collegiate level, Coach DeCesare spent 16 seasons as the Head Varsity Basketball Coach at St. Raymond's High School in the Bronx. He led St. Raymond's to two New York State Championships and four City Championships while being named the New York City and State Coach of the year four times. The Ravens were regularly a top-25 team in the country and traveled to tournaments across the country.
Coach DeCesare has produced over 40 Division 1 players, including three McDonald’s High School All-Americans. In addition, he has been a Director for the prestigious ABCD Basketball Camp.
By: John Nee '93
While Coach Gary DeCesare’s varsity basketball team finished the holiday tournament season 2-4, they made two trips that helped the team bond and experience some sights they will never forget.
Before Christmas, the team travelled to Louisville, KY to participate in the “King of the Bluegrass” holiday tournament. The Mustangs opened the tournament on December 17 with of tough 68-56 loss to Altoona High School. Junior guard Jordan Matthews led the way for St. Rita with a career-high 32 points.
The Mustangs bounced back the next day with a strong 75-66 win over Lee High School. Senior Paul Kingsley led four Mustangs in double figures with a game-high 24 points, but St. Rita finished the tournament with a 61-54 loss to Doss High School despite 18 points from freshman Joel Watts and 16 from senior Rashaad Williams.
In Kentucky, the team visited Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, and they toured The University of Louisville where they spent time with former Mustang Tony Hicks '12, a senior member of the Cardinals basketball team.
After returning to Chicago for Christmas, DeCesare’s squad hopped on a plane to Miami, Florida to participate in the “Jr. Orange Bowl Classic.” While in Miami, the team attended a women’s basketball game between The University of Miami and Florida State University, and they also shared a team meal at Ray Allen’s restaurant Grown in Miami.
On the court, St. Rita opened tournament play with a 52-34 loss to Palmetto High School. The Mustangs were led in scoring by Rashaad Williams with ten points.
Once again, in game two of the tourney, St. Rita bounced back with a solid come-from-behind 57-51 win over Coral Gables High School by outscoring the Cavaliers 32-12 in the fourth quarter. The Mustang comeback was led by three guys in double figures including Rashaad Williams with a game-high 15 points.
Coach DeCesare’s squad finished the tournament with an up-and-back affair with Mater Academy Charter High School eventually dropping a tough 69-68 decision. Senior Paul Kingsley led the way for the Mustangs with 16 points.
Despite their record, the Mustangs played some of the top teams in Kentucky and Florida which will help to prepare them for the rugged Catholic League South schedule. Currently, the Mustangs are (6-5, 2-0) on the season as they sit on top of the CCL South standings. They will travel to Burbank tonight Friday, January 6 to battle the Vikings of St. Laurence before returning home with a key matchup next Tuesday, January 10 against the Brother Rice Crusaders. Game time for both is 7:00 p.m., with a pre-game party for grade school kids at 6:30 preceeding the January 10 game at St. Rita.
By: John Nee '93
After being pretty much ignored in the preseason, the St. Rita varsity basketball team has started to open some eyes in the high school basketball world with its torrid start to the 2016-17 season. Over the weekend, Coach Gary DeCesare’s squad improved to (4-0) on the year with a pair of wins on the road.
On Friday night, the Mustangs travelled to Kankakee to battle the Fighting Irish of Bishop McNamara, who came into the contest (5-0) on the season with the hopes of challenging for the Catholic League South title.
Lead by a balanced scoring attack, St. Rita came away with a convincing 67-57 win to further solidify themselves as the favorites in the Catholic South. The dynamic backcourt duo of senior Rashaad Williams and junior Jordan Matthews led the way with 13 points each while senior Paul Kingsley (11 points) and senior Phil McGuire (9 points) also contributed in the win.
The Mustangs jumped out to a nine-point halftime lead (34-25) and extended their lead to as much as 20 before the Fighting Irish came roaring back late in the 3rd quarter with an 11-0 run to make it a single digit lead once again.
St. Rita received a huge second half lift off the bench by junior Landen Gladney, who scored 9 points and grabbed 11 rebounds all after halftime.
On Sunday, the Mustangs again participated in the Derrick Rose Shootout at Moraine Valley Community College as they battled an upstart University High team. After a sluggish start that led to an 18-5 deficit after one quarter of play, St. Rita began to apply pressure to U-High, resulting in a 17-4 second quarter run to tie the game at 22 at the half.
An up-and-back second half between the two teams led to several lead changes, before junior point guard Matthews saved the day with four clutch free throws down the stretch to help St. Rita escape with an ugly 50-46 win.
Matthews (20 points, (7-13 field goals, 6-6 free throws) came to the rescue time and time again for the Mustangs with an array of driving layups to the basket as St. Rita struggled from the field all afternoon long including 0-15 from 3-pt range. Senior guard Williams (18 points) and senior big man McGuire (6 points, 9 rebounds, 6 steals) also made big contributions in the Mustang victory.
St. Rita, now ranked #22 in the current Sun-Times poll, will return home on Tuesday night December 13th to participate in the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference challenge against a tough Marian Catholic squad. Tipoff for the varsity game is 7:00 p.m. following the freshman at 4:00 p.m. and the sophomores at 5:30 p.m.