Home Local Sports NBA’s Donte DiVincenzo of the Sacramento Kings addresses Salesianum School senior athletes,...

NBA’s Donte DiVincenzo of the Sacramento Kings addresses Salesianum School senior athletes, has his No. 5 retired

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Donte DiVincenzo, a 2015 graduate of Salesianum School, addresses the seniors and their families at the school's annual sports banquet. His No. 5 basketball jersey, framed behind him, was retired. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — Seven years after leading Salesianum School to its second consecutive state basketball championship with a playoff performance for the ages, Donte DiVincenzo returned to his alma mater on April 27 to serve as an inspiration to the current seniors. DiVincenzo, who plays professionally for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, was the featured speaker at Salesianum’s annual sports banquet.

It was also an unprecedented night in the Father Birkenheuer Gymnasium. The school retired DiVincenzo’s No. 5, the first time it has done so. Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Father Chris Beretta, the principal and a former assistant basketball coach, said he pulled DiVincenzo’s home and road uniforms from the laundry pile after the 2015 season, thinking something like this may someday happen. DiVincenzo will receive the blue road jersey, while the white home version will be hung in the gymnasium, likely near the program’s championship markers, Father Beretta said.

Before the banquet, as he walked Salesianum’s main hallway, DiVincenzo said he was privileged to be part of the program’s first two basketball state champions. The Sals have remained among the state’s top teams since.

“To be recognized as one of those teams that kind of started it, that’s special to me,” he said.

Donte DiVincenzo of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings poses for a photo with Paddy Grugan, a second-grader at St. Mary Magdalen School, before the senior sports banquet at Salesianum School on April 27. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

DiVincenzo has remained close to the program. He sent a video message to this year’s team before the state championship game against Tower Hill.

“It didn’t work,” he joked, referring to the Hillers’ win.

DiVincenzo was thrilled to be back among old friends, including his high school coaches, Mike Gallagher and Brendan Haley; the principal, Father Beretta; and a teammate on both of the title teams, Jebree Willis. He told the seniors to cherish their high school days as they quickly dwindle in number.

“You meet some of your best friends in these halls,” he said. “Enjoy yourself. This time goes so quick.”

He mentioned before his talk that he recently ran into another former Sallies teammate, Jake Sherlock, in Philadelphia, and the two have reconnected.

“Now we’re catching up, reminiscing on all those times,” he said.

No dream, he told the seniors, is too big. He remembers telling people he was going to play professionally, and he made that happen after a stellar career at Salesianum and collegiately at Villanova. He was the 17th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2018 draft after leading the Wildcats to the NCAA title with a 31-point performance in the championship game. It was Villanova’s second title in his three seasons there.

“You’re supposed to have big hopes and big dreams,” he said.

He continued with his championship pedigree with the Bucks, who won the NBA title last year. DiVincenzo started all 66 regular-season games but missed the postseason with an injury. He was traded in the middle of this season to the Kings.

“When you play sports, there are a lot of ups and downs,” he said before the banquet. “I had ankle surgery, dealt with that. Being traded, I had to deal with that. You have to have a circle around you that you trust and you love, and you have to keep that circle close. You’ve always got to believe in yourself, no matter what. There’s going to be doubters, naysayers, your entire career and your entire life. So as long as you keep that circle close and you stay positive and believe in yourself, anything can happen.”

DiVincenzo was a four-year member of the varsity at Salesianum, and he thanked Gallagher for giving him a chance. He scored 1,335 points in his four years, earning first-team all-state honors twice and being named state player of the year as a senior in 2014-15. He was the most outstanding player of the 2015 state tournament, averaging a double-double in four tournament games, including 28 points per game.

Former Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel addresses the senior sports banquet at Salesianum School on April 27. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

In the championship game against Polytech, he scored 23 points, with 13 of those coming in the fourth quarter. He also added five rebounds and two key assists in the fourth. In his remarks at the banquet, Haley said DiVincenzo’s numbers “hardly tell the story” about what he meant to the program. During those years, college coaches were regular guests at Salesianum practices and games, and there was electricity in the gym every night, “and it wasn’t just the student body.” But through it all, Haley said, his star was “the consummate team player.” Haley recalled quietly asking DiVincenzo to help set up his teammates, and the response was always the same: “No problem, Coach. I got this.”

DiVincenzo said he has been playing “phone tag” with his college coach, Jay Wright, who recently announced his retirement. He told the students that something Wright drilled into his athletes are always in his mind.

“Keep your head down, keep working,” he said. “Carry yourself with great respect and great humility.”

DiVincenzo was the last of five speakers at the banquet. The others were Salesianum athletic director Katie Godfrey, who told the crowd that she has been going to the banquet her entire life; senior Sam Dumas, a multisport athlete who was chosen by his classmates as the student speaker; Zach Gwynn, a member of the Class of 2018 who is a quarterback for the University of Delaware; and former Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who regaled the crowd with stories from his six decades in professional baseball.