By BRIAN CUNNIFF
One of the greatest players in Wildwood Catholic High School/Academy boys basketball history is now tasked with keeping the program among the best in the Cape-Atlantic League.
Anthony Raffa, who scored 1,893 career points during a terrific high school career that culminated with a pair of South Jersey championships, has been hired as Wildwood Catholic’s new boys basketball coach, the school’s athletic department confirmed early Friday evening.
Raffa replaces Dave DeWeese, who announced his retirement as coach last week after winning 324 games, four Cape-Atlantic League playoff tournament titles and three South Jersey championships over 18 seasons.
Raffa, who served as an assistant coach under DeWeese last season, was unavailable for comment Friday evening.
Raffa played his high school career under DeWeese when Wildwood Catholic won back-to-back South Jersey titles in 2006-07. The 6-0 guard averaged 30.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 4.2 steals as a senior en route to a second team all-state selection.
Raffa went on to an excellent college career at the Division I level. After one season at Albany, he transferred to Coastal Carolina and averaged 19.1 points per game as a senior, earning first team all-Big South honors. He averaged 14.3 points per outing over his four-year college career.
Raffa went on to enjoy a long professional career overseas. A dual U.S. and Italian citizen, Raffa played most of his pro career in Italy but also had stops in France, Bulgaria and Iran. His best pro season statistically came in 2018-19 when he averaged 22.4 points and 4.3 assists for L.B Legnano Knights of Italian Serie A2. He last played professionally in 2019-20 for separate teams in both Italy and France.
During breaks from his overseas pro career, Raffa occasionally could be seen in local high school gyms observing practices over the last few years. After not playing professionally last winter, Raffa joined DeWeese’s staff as an assistant during a pandemic shortened 2020-21 season that saw the Crusaders play just five games.
Raffa takes over a Wildwood Catholic program that has risen to among the best in South Jersey. The Crusaders won CAL playoff tournament titles in 2014 and from 2018 through 2020 while also picking up numerous CAL United Conference regular-season titles. Wildwood Catholic reached the sectional title game in both 2019 and 2020, winning the program’s first in 13 seasons in 2020. Wildwood Catholic never got to play for a state title, however, after the season was abruptly ended due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wildwood Catholic is expected to be a team in transition this winter, featuring some intriguing and talented younger players but very little varsity experience.