By Dan Hutson
The Salesian High School boys’ basketball team made school history this month by achieving the highest preseason ranking the program has ever had. CBS Sports affiliate MaxPreps.com ranked the Salesian Pride 10th nationally and 2nd in California. Salesian is coming off of a California Division IV State Championship in 2012, its second championship victory in the last four years. The East Bay high school is garnering positive national attention for the Bay Area basketball circuit.
The Salesian basketball program has found continued success over the past decade, led by 2012 California Coach of the Year, Bill Mellis. In his 14 seasons as head coach, Mellis has led Salesian to an overall record of 345-109. Last year, the team finished the season ranked in the top 25 by USA Today. In addition to impressive coaching, The Pride have several future Division I players that have been key contributors to the program’s current success.
Salesian has four starting seniors, led by national standout Jabari Bird. Bird has verbally committed to UC Berkeley. Seniors Mario Dunn and Markel Leonard have given verbal commitments to Montana and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo respectively. Senior Jermaine Edmonds Jr. has received collegiate attention but is currently undecided.
Despite all the attention and hype, Mellis remains focused on what is really important: “As much as I’m proud of what our players have achieved on the court, I’m more proud of what our student-athletes have accomplished in the classroom. At Salesian, our students understand that academics are first priority.”
This season, Salesian will face top-notch talent as they will likely compete in California’s new “open division” playoff format. In the open division, the Pride would compete in playoffs against the top schools in the state – regardless of enrollment size. In this new playoff scheme, a division IV school like Salesian could end up facing a large Division I powerhouse like Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Additionally, Salesian will face stiff regular season competition from Bay Area schools like Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) and De La Salle (Concord). They also have scheduled games with recognized programs like Junipero Serra (Gardena) and Gonzaga Prep (Washington DC).
With such a difficult regular season and playoff schedule, Mellis and the Pride understand the challenges that this season poses. They are optimistic nonetheless, and proud of the well-deserved national recognition.
Dan Hutson is the Director of Marketing at Salesian High School in Richmond.
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