This year’s Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament will again be hosted by Cape Henlopen, with four Delaware teams and 13 more competitors from around the nation.

Joining Cape Henlopen as the First State’s representatives are fellow Henlopen Conference team Caesar Rodney, with two schools from up north, Salesianum and Sanford. The tournament will include two Special Olympics Unified Games, Seaford against Dover and Caesar Rodney against Cape Henlopen.

Apart from Delaware, teams from six states and the District of Columbia will be in the lineup.

There are three from New York (Albany Academy, Bishop Loughlin, Our Savior New American) and two each from Pennsylvania (Archbishop Wood, Westtown School), Maryland (Bishop Walsh, Eleanor Roosevelt) and New Jersey (Hudson Catholic, Roselle Catholic). Vermont (Vermont Academy), Virginia (Paul VI), Nevada (Liberty) and Washington D.C. (Gonzaga College High School) field one each.

Squads ready to shine

Since the return of the Slam Dunk, Cape Henlopen has been the yearly host of one of the biggest and most popular basketball bouts in the country. Each season offers a new opportunity for teams from Delaware to showcase their skills against some of the best the high school basketball world has to offer.

As host, Cape Henlopen plays each year, and that brings new challenges for head coach Stephen Re and the squad he helps lead on the court.

“My approach changes based on my team’s maturity and experience,” Re said. “Last year, we came really close to knocking off a national team. Part of the reason is due to the experience they had. Many of those guys played in the games and knew what to expect and how to prepare properly.”

Now with a much younger team, Re and his squad will tackle the challenge a bit differently.

“This year’s team is almost all new players and the only experience they have in the tournament has been watching it as a young fan,” he said. “Many of them were in middle school when we started the tournament. They’re excited about the opportunity to play. It’ll be an adjustment for them, and I will need to be patient in teaching them what it takes.”

In their two matchups, Cape will face a familiar tough opponent in Sanford, along with a very challenging team, Hudson Catholic from New Jersey.

“[We’re] looking forward to playing Sanford as we know they’ll be hunting us after we beat them in their gym last year,” Re said. “Hudson Catholic will be a great challenge for us. They’ve been an excellent team in their league for many years.”

Hudson Catholic finished last year 21-5 overall and they’ve won 21 games or more in each of the past eight seasons. Meanwhile, Sanford went 15-5 last season and reached the DIAA Boys Basketball semifinals.

Salesianum will make the trip south with a new head coach, Taylor Trevisan, a 2008 graduate of the Sallies.

Salesianum reached the state quarterfinals a season ago and Trevisan believes Slam Dunk to the Beach only helps them prepare for the big games coming throughout the season.

“To be a part of Slam Dunk to the Beach is important to us this year,” Trevisan said. “We get a chance to play against some top level talent both in state and out. We want our players to have incredible experiences and create memories that will last them a lifetime, and this is an opportunity to do that.”

Every team that takes the court at the Slam Dunk has something to prove, from the nationally-ranked teams on down. For Salesianum, it’s not only a chance to show what kind of team they have, but according to Trevisan, strive for even more.

“It’s important to expose our players to this level of talent,” Trevisan said. “We want to build ourselves to get on that level and garner national recognition as a program, and this allows us to see where we are currently, where we need to go and how to get there.”

While the pressure to win at a high level will always be there, Trevisan and his team are looking forward to the trip to Cape during the Christmas break.

“The guys are beyond excited to get a chance to play at Slam Dunk and play nationally ranked teams and players,” Trevisan said. “While the on-court experience is one thing, it is the time we as a team will get to spend together on the road for a few days that will hopefully create memories and relationships that will last beyond their high school basketball careers.”