Earning a three-seed in the west region of the NCAA tournament, the University of Michigan men’s basketball team was rolling.
The Wolverines had won via buzzer-beaters and blowouts, advancing all the way to the national championship game.
Then, it all came crashing down on April 2 in San Antonio; Michigan fell to top-seeded Villanova 79-62.
However, despite the obvious disappointment, St. Rita grad Charles Matthews just tried to take it all in.
“Playing in the national championship game, that’s a great learning experience,” Matthews said. “You learn a lot playing on that stage. You’re playing at the highest level of college basketball. We learned from it, and we hope to get there again next year.”
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!
Charles Matthews '15 could have stayed at Kentucky. He appreciated being a part of one of college basketball's most storied programs. He enjoyed playing for legendary coach John Calipari. He admired the beauty of Kentucky's tradition-rich, 800-plus acre campus.
"I need to be an impact player and have an opportunity to produce like one," said Matthews, a 2015. St. Rita graduate. "I want the ball in big situations. I loved Kentucky and I loved the system we played. I didn't want to transfer. Coach Cal didn't want me to leave. But I needed a role change."
Week Two of the official St. Rita High School Summer Camp season is off to a great start. The 37-Acre Campus is filled with summer activity.
Soccer Camp for grammar school students and incoming freshman, led by Coaches Tim McCarthy '85 and Bob Kellam '92, is building on the program's recent momentum--including ongoing construction of a new locker room. Many young men are honing their soccer skills on Cronin Field at Doyle Stadium each morning.
As soon as Soccer Camp concludes each day, Head Football Coach Todd Kuska '90 and several talented young quarterbacks take to Doyle Stadium's state-of-the-art turf playing surface as Kuska helps them sharpen their QB aptitudes.
In the evenings, Head Basketball Coach Gary DeCesare and his staff gather athletes from grades five through eight on St. Rita Gymnasium's hardwood for drills to help them improve their dribbling, shooting, passing and defensive techniques.
Also this week, Coach Kuska and his coaching staff welcome incoming freshmen at Doyle Stadium each evening for Football Camp.
Several campers, of more than 150 grammar school students of all ages with sought-after spots in Coach Jay Standring's (HON) ever-popular Recreation Camp, are still talking about last week's special, behind-the-scenes tour of Notre Dame, including the stadium, locker room, ice rink, Basilica and bookstore. This week, the campers are headed to Haunted Trails Family Amusement Park in Burbank for some off-campus fun.
In more off-campus summer action, the St. Rita Cheerleaders, led by Coaches Kim Williams and Missy Smialek, are attending Cheer Camp in Aurora. Many Cheerleaders meet on campus each morning before joining the rest of the squad at camp.