Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls High School boys basketball program has a storied tradition. In the past decade, the team has won a state championship and played in four more. It's been nationally ranked and has sent players to top Division I college programs and even the NBA.
This year's Wolverines are set to do something no team in school history has done: make the New York State All-Academic list.
The team, ranked No. 1 in Western New York and No. 5 in the state on the court, carried an 88 average through the first marking period, the highest in school history. Six players carried averages over 90, led by senior Ramir Burton's 95. If the players can keep up their marks through the second marking period, which closes Wednesday, they'll be the first in school history to earn the All-Academic designation, as well as the first to break the 85-mark as a team.
"It's important that the community understands that the kids aren't just basketball players," said head coach Sal Constantino, "and it's important that kids who see these guys play and want to play here understand that they work just as hard in the classroom."
The academic turnaround starts with Constantino, who took over the program three years ago looking to put an emphasis on grades. Players point to him as the main catalyst behind the improvement, which he said was a goal of his when he took the job.
Constantino said his focus is on pushing his players to go to college. He doesn't penalize players for missing practice for after-school meetings with teachers, and it's mandatory for seniors to send out college applications before Christmas and to attend the high school's annual financial aid fair. Last season, he played a game without his seniors rather than have them miss the fair.