Boys Basketball Notebook: Sareyka cousins not worried about living up to the name

MIDDLETOWN >> Luke Sareyka fields the question with a knowing chuckle. Yes, in his first season at The Christian Academy, he expected stories from teachers and coaches who knew his father and uncle.

But Sareyka is happy to see another of his expectations subverted. The reputation of his father, Kevin, and uncle Kyle proceeds him. Both were athletic standouts in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This season, though, as Luke and his cousin Grant (Kyle’s son) embark on their first year at TCA, any apprehension about following in others’ footsteps has vanished.

Freshman guard Grant Sareyka is enjoying his first season at TCA. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

“I thought it was going to be a lot, people were expecting a lot out of me,” Luke, a sophomore forward, said. “But as I came to know, it’s not important. They want to know who you are, not who your father is or who your uncle is.”

The Sareyka name resonates through TCA athletics even decades later. Kevin, a 1992 graduate, scored 1,143 points in his career, eighth all-time in school history. He was a second-team All-Delco pick as a senior, as was Kyle (Class of 1990) two years prior. Kyle’s pitching prowess earned him the 1990 Daily Times Baseball Player of the Year distinction.

Kyle served for several seasons as the head coach of Gloucester Christian in South Jersey, leading the Conquerors to a 64-6 record over his last two seasons. His eldest son, Collin, was a multisport standout at Gloucester and is continuing his basketball career at Messiah College.

Grant and older sister Hannah, a multisport athlete who contributed to TCA’s District 1 Class A girls soccer title in the fall, relocated to TCA this season. They were joined by Luke, the eldest of Kevin’s three children, transferring in from the Garnet Valley school district, where Luke spent kindergarten through ninth grades.

That Luke and Grant, a freshman guard, are undergoing the assimilation process together is a benefit.

“I feel like we are doing it together, because that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come to TCA, to be with my cousins,” Luke said. “I’m in a couple of their classes, so it’s fun to be around them and seeing them a lot more.”

Grant saw significant action a season ago at Gloucester, which plays in the Tri-State Christian Conference of which TCA was long a member before its transition to the PIAA in 2015-16 and to the Bicentennial League this year. The level of competition offered by the Bicentennial’s diverse population of schools spanning a number of PIAA classes is a stark departure for Grant.

“It’s a whole new level from at Gloucester,” Grant said. “At Gloucester, it was small Christian schools that weren’t really into athletics. So the competition was not good, and then I came to TCA and the competition is tough and physical and it’s helped me a lot to become a better player.”

There’s no pressure, though, to live up to the family name. Both have been regular members of the rotation for first-year coach Malik Walker this season, and the Crusaders are on pace to be part of the District 1 Class A playoffs.
All those accomplishments speak to Grant and Luke as individuals, not to their family tree.

“I came to where my dad went to high school, so for me, I thought it was kind of weird,” Grant said. “I thought there was going to be a lot of pressure having my dad’s name and everybody was going to expect me to be the same as him. At first it was hard, but now I love it here at TCA. It’s really a great experience for me. Moving just helped me make a lot of new friends and it was easy to adapt at TCA because all the kids are nice there, and they made it really easier than I thought it would be.”


Sophomore forward Luke Sareyka has joined his cousin, Grant, at the Christian Academy, the school where Luke’s father and uncle were athletic standouts. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

In his sophomore year, size was the first thing you saw from Chichester forward Mike Davie. Sometimes it was the only thing.

It took Davie most of last season to become a regular contributor, averaging just 2.9 points per game.

This season, the 6-foot-7 junior has more than doubled that production to 6.6 ppg. He’s scored in double-figures four times after none last season. His breakout game was an 18-point outing over Octorara Dec. 15.

Much of the improvement has come via a heightened intensity.

“I’ve been working on just trying to get to the basket more,” Davie said. “Last year, I used to pass and not be aggressive and stuff. So now, I’m just working on getting the basket more and be aggressive.”


Speaking of improved big men, few have come as far this season as Episcopal Academy’s Kyle Virbitsky.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Virbitsky is an All-Delco in baseball (for which he’s committed to Penn State) and a standout tight end for the Churchmen. But that he’s able to maintain such a high level through three sports is remarkable.

“I tip the hat to him and give him a lot of credit for being a three-sport athlete all four years,” basketball coach Craig Conlin said. “It’s very rare for a kid to not only contribute to each sport and each team but to help dominate in each sport. He’s in there, he’s doing the dirty work, he’s mucking and grinding, he’s rebounding the ball and playing tough. He’s been a shining star this year.”

Virbitsky has also been durable. He’s the only member of the Churchmen to have played in all 22 games this season. As the team weathered the absence of All-Delco Nick Alikakos and two games without point guard Conner Delaney early, Virbitsky has kept the team even-keeled and in pole position in the Inter-Ac standings.

Virbitsky highlights the hustle in his game, and his zeal for diving on the floor is unquestioned. But he’s grown into a lockdown defender — he held Haverford School’s Christian Ray in check for stretches last Friday — as well a solid scoring threat. He’s averaging 7.1 points per game, up from 1.6 as a junior, and has made 13 3-pointers to stretch defenses.

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