Dante Calabria was a member of a national championship basketball team at North Carolina and was a starter on another Final Four team.
But Calabria finds himself talking about his days at Blackhawk High School more often than his college years.
Calabria was the star of teams that won three consecutive WPIAL championships, and one PIAA title his senior year (1992) at Blackhawk in Beaver County. That 1992 team averaged 91 points a game, had a 32-1 record and is considered one of the best WPIAL teams in the past few decades. Calabria scored 2,252 career points and his talents earned him a spot in the WPIAL Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
The WPIAL announced its eighth annual Hall of Fame class Wednesday at a news conference at Heinz History Center. Inductees will be honored June 6 at a banquet at DoubleTree by Hilton Pittsburgh-Green Tree. Calabria is one of the headliners.
“It’s crazy when I see high school games in Florida or North Carolina and I see scores like 52-39,” said Calabria, who lives in North Carolina. “I tell people we averaged 91 a game my senior year. Guys say, ‘No way.’ I probably talk more about those teams in high school than I do my college time.
“Those were great times. We had good guys playing at Blackhawk and coach [John] Miller was the guy. Look at the success his sons, Sean and Archie, have had. We learned an awful lot back then. We lost only once our junior year and then to come back the next year, lose our first game, and then win 32 in a row, that was a special group.”
And Calabria was a special player. He scored more than 2,000 points despite not playing as a freshman because Blackhawk had a school policy in which freshman weren’t allowed to play on the varsity. He is one of the best 3-point shooters in North Carolina history and spent this past season as an assistant coach for the women’s and men’s teams at Northwood University, an NAIA school in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“In my opinion, to get an award such as the Hall of Fame, although it’s more of a personal award, it’s still based on what the team did as a group and how you were coached,” Calabria said. “To me, I’m just representing our team for this award.”
Rest of the class
Ralph Cindrich, Avella … Standout football player and wrestler who played both sports at Pitt and then in the NFL.
Shannon Davis, Sacred Heart … Basketball player who scored career 2,275 points and made the prestigious Parade All-America team three times.
Kelly Deep, Moon … Won four consecutive WPIAL and PIAA doubles tennis titles.
Beth Friday, Upper St. Clair … Made Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 in basketball and made All-Area in soccer as a goalkeeper before having her basketball jersey retired at Duquesne University.
Eric Kasperowicz, North Hills … The 1994 Parade All-America football team had eight quarterbacks. One was Peyton Manning and another was Kasperowicz, who had 6,869 career yards of offense.
Mike Vernillo, Fort Cherry … Held WPIAL career rushing record for 12 years with 7,646 yards.
Bob Jacoby, Bishop Canevin … Coached football for 40 years and softball for 30. Won WPIAL titles in both sports and a PIAA title in softball.
Dave Meloni, Springdale … As boys soccer coach in the 1960s and 1970s, won nine WPIAL titles in 15 years and had a 72-game winning streak.
Tom Sankovich, Connellsville … Baseball coach who had a 422-105 record in 20 years (1971-90) with four WPIAL titles and one PIAA championship.
Don Yannessa … Coached football for 37 seasons at Aliquippa, Baldwin and Ambridge and had a 249-137-7 record, with four WPIAL titles at Aliquippa.
Beaver Falls football 1960 … This 9-0 team had future Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath at quarterback and outscored teams, 305-63.
Baldwin girls volleyball 1989 … The Highlanders won WPIAL and PIAA titles and the first unit had a match record of 51-0 and a record of 118-2 in games.
Arnold Galiffa, Donora … Once appeared on the cover of “Life Magazine” and had 12 varsity letters at Donora before winning 11 varsity letters at West Point (Army).
Larry Maggi … Inducted as a contest official. Worked 26 PIAA regional wrestling finals and 18 WPIAL team championships.
Jon Vallina … Inducted in the contributor category, Vallina is a longtime WPIAL board of control member who won five WPIAL titles as Burgettstown boys golf coach.
Bill Suit … This former Shaler principal will be honored with the WPIAL Courage Award. A WPIAL board of control member, Suit battled cancer for six years before dying in December.
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.