Wildwood Catholic Basketball Coach Hoping his School can Stay Open

Wildwood Catholic Basketball Coach Hoping his School can Stay Open
On Friday Wildwood Catholic was delivered the news that both the high school and Cape Trinity Catholic School would be closed by the Camden Diocese on June 30. Cape Trinity is for kindergarten through eighth grade and shares the building with Wildwood Catholic.
 
In addition to those schools, St. Joseph Hammonton and Saint Joseph Regional Elementary School in Hammonton along with Good Shepherd Regional Elementary School in Collingswood were also announced by the Diocese as closing on June 30.
 
According to the Diocese, Wildwood Catholic and Cape Trinity had a combined enrollment of 382 in 2015 and it has dropped to 337 this year, a 12 percent drop.
 
Now Wildwood Catholic can only hope that there will be a school and a team next year. Wildwood Catholic and St. Joseph will look to follow the high school models of Mater Dei and Holy Cross, two New Jersey parochial schools that were told by their Diocese they were closing but are now operating independently.
 
“The school is exploring all the possibilities of trying to raise a substantial sum of money to convince the diocese to leave us open or leave the diocese and form a private school,” said Dave DeWeese, who just completed his 17th season as head coach of the Wildwood Catholic boys’ basketball team.
 
DeWeese’s squad is the school highest profile sports program and has been among the model programs in South Jersey over the past decade. This year the Crusaders went 24-7 and won the Cape Atlantic League title and the South Jersey Non-Public B championship.
 
The coronavirus pandemic forced the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association to cancel the season after the Non-Public B sectional final, so the Crusaders weren’t able to compete in the state championship.
 
It has been suggested here that the teams that were supposed to play in the final, should be crowned co-champions.
 
“We thought this year we were going to win the Tournament of Champions,” Dave DeWeese said. “Our kids were playing at the highest level and were playing better than anybody.”
 
Wildwood Catholic was considered the second-best team in South Jersey behind Camden. In mid-February Camden defeated the Crusaders, 63-54.
 
The Crusaders had two of the best players in South Jersey, 6-foot-8 Taj Thweatt and 6-7 Jahlil White, who are headed to West Virginia and Temple respectively on basketball scholarships.
 
It’s difficult enough for a school to produce one Division I recruit, let alone two in the same lineup, which shows how truly special this team was.
 
“We were really hoping to get to the Tournament of Champions and have a rematch with Camden,” DeWeese said.
 
All the students at Wildwood Catholic enjoyed a special bond that comes with attending a small school where everybody knows each other.
 
Now there is a holding pattern for the students, teachers and administration at Wildwood Catholic as an all involved hope that they can follow the lead of Holy Cross and Mater Dei and remain open.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo courtesy of Wildwood Catholic

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