Niagara Gazette — "Sal always pushes us, no matter what," said senior guard J.J. Wilkes, who had a 92 in the first quarter. "He's always on top of us about our grades, even if we're in the hall for a little bit of time, he comes out and tells us to get to class."
"He cares about us on and off the court," added senior Stefon Caffee, who had a 93.
Some players, like Wilkes and Caffee, had always been above-average students.
Others, like senior forward Tikere Ralands (92) struggled in school before playing for Constantino.
"(My grades) started improving once I started playing basketball," Ralands said. "Sal is really strict on grades. He's always checking up on us."
The improvement is part of a district-wide effort to increase the academic standards of student athletes. New requirements make student athletes focus on grades to be eligible to play sports. Athletes at Niagara Falls must maintain 85 percent attendance and be passing four classes, plus physical education. Of the four classes, three must be what John Forcucci, athletic director of the district, calls "core" classes (math, science, social studies, English).
Forcucci said the members of the boys basketball team aren't simply meeting requirements, though. They're exceeding them.
"The boys have done very well in the classroom," he said. "There are a few that are taking AP classes currently, and that's really the model we'd like to see form all our teams."
Also joining in the effort are the faculty and staff of the high school.
Constantino checks in with them regularly, and improvements in grading technology allow the teachers to provide coaches with up-to-date progress reports.
"Most of the seniors on the team have the same classes," Wilkes said. "It helps, and we definitely want to thank the staff. They're always on our back about grades knowing that we're on the team."