and Jason Winchell
For The Dialog
WILMINGTON – After two straight state championships led by veteran players, Salesianum will defend their state title with a more youthful roster. The Sals began defense of their title Friday night at home with a win against Howard, and the fans at 18th and Broom had to be encouraged by their first look at the future.
Four seniors anchor the roster, including Juwel Campbell and Luke Bianchino, along with a transfer student, Kasai Guthrie. Other key contributors to the title last year who are back are Mike Kempski, Paul Brown and, now that football has concluded, Jamal Whittlesey. They will guide a talented freshman crop led by 6-8 Tariq Ingraham, who scored 21 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in his high school debut.
Coach Brendan Haley said the atmosphere around the school has been one of excitement but also of curiosity since there are so many new faces.
“As coaches we’re not real clear on what group comprises our best five yet, and I’m sure the coaches are wondering the same thing,” he said. “It may take us a while before we settle on a clear starting group. Everyone has worked hard to try and make their case. We’ll see how it plays out.”
At practice a few days before the season opener, Kempski said the Sals are taking things game by game. Getting back to the Bob Carpenter Center is still “our ultimate goal,” but the team can’t look that far ahead.
“There’s definitely pressure on ourselves, but we’ve got to overcome that and get some wins,” Kempski said. “Practices have been really enthusiastic. The coaches have really been getting on us, making sure we’re focused.”
The schedule began with Howard, a perennial contender, and it continues with several stiff challenges. Those include the first road game, which is Tuesday night at William Penn, and contests against Sanford, Appoquinimink, Smyrna, Appoquinimink and Mount Pleasant. They also face St. Elizabeth and St. Mark’s twice, and they battle some tough Pennsylvania foes.
“We want to play in games that will prepare us for a tournament-type atmosphere come season’s end,” Haley said.
Remaining schedule (home games in CAPS)
12/08/15 @ William Penn 7:15 pm
12/18/15 MALVERN PREP (Pa.) 7:30 pm
12/30/15 vs. St. Joe’s Prep (Pa.) @TBA Jameer Nelson Classic
01/05/16 @ Archmere 6:15 pm
01/08/16 ST. ELIZABETH 7:30 pm
01/12/16 @ Tatnall 5:15 pm
01/16/16 vs. Math Civics Science Charter (Pa.) @ Philadelphia University TBA Kobe Bryant Classic
01/18/16 vs. Dowingtown East (Pa.) @ Concord 5:45 pm Coaches vs. Cancer
01/22/16 ST. MARK’S 7:30 pm
01/26/16 SANFORD 7:30 pm
01/29/16 @ St. Elizabeth 7:30 pm
02/02/16 APPOQUINIMINK 7:30 pm
02/06/16 MOUNT PLEASANT 7:30 pm
02/09/16 @ Brandywine 5:30 pm
02/12/16 @ St. Mark’s 7:30 pm
02/16/16 @ Friends 5:30 pm
02/18/16 SMYRNA 7:30 pm
02/20/16 SUSSEX TECH 7:30 pm
02/23/16 @ Concord 5:15 pm