Column: From the Salernos to the Ebiriekwes, these athletic brothers excel in the classroom

Matthew Salerno of Crespi is a three-sport athlete with a 4.67 GPA who will walk-on at Notre Dame to play football.
(Eric Sondheimer)

All-league in football. All-league in soccer. Starter in lacrosse. Student body president with a 4.67 grade-point average. All A’s in four years of high school.

Senior Matthew Salerno of Encino Crespi probably needs a cot to sleep on because he seemingly never leaves campus.

“I spend my life pretty much here,” he said.

Ditto for his younger brother, Christopher, a freshman who plays the same three sports. Their older brother, Michael, a freshman at SMU, did the same. All three were A students. In fact, Matthew and Christopher are straight-A students. Michael had a 4.57 GPA but got a couple of Bs.


“How do I explain it? I don’t know,” their father, Mike, said. “They work very hard. Their mom is an elementary school teacher. We’ve tried since an early age to tell them it’s more important what you do in the classroom than on the field. We often look at each other and wonder where they came from.”

Mike and his older brother, Butch, were football standouts at Crespi. Matthew was Crespi’s top receiver this past season and will walk on at Notre Dame. All three boys love being multisport athletes.

“That’s just how we roll,” Matthew said. “We don’t know any other way.”

Catholic schools like Crespi rely on families to send them all their siblings, from oldest to youngest. At least that’s how it was done in the 1980s and 1990s. Crespi sports programs flourished behind families such as the Faurias, Kielings and others.


The Salernos have kept that tradition going. If only people could take a tour of the family house, you’d think you were visiting a sporting goods store.

“We have a rack full of shoes and hand-me-down clothes,” Matthew said.

Christopher will be all alone come the fall. The pressure will be on to keep getting A’s. No big deal for the Salerno brothers.

Crenshaw’s Nigerian connection: In the Crenshaw home where the Ebiriekwe brothers grew up, the family edict is that education is key. The three brothers’ report cards prove the point.


Brothers Kevin, left, and Steven Ebiriekwe have helped Crenshaw to an 8-0 record in the Coliseum League. Another brother is student body president at San Diego State.
(Eric Sondheimer )

Kevin is a 6-foot-6 senior basketball player for Crenshaw, averaging 19 points with a 3.2 grade-point average. Steven is a 6-7 junior also playing basketball and an honors student. The oldest, Chemize, is a 6-5 former basketball player who’s student body president at San Diego State.

“My parents are very big on academics and education so we can have great opportunities,” Kevin said of his mother and father, who came from Nigeria.

Crenshaw (21-6, 8-0) has won 16 City Section championships in upper division basketball. The Cougars won consecutive Division I championships after the creation of the Open Division the last two seasons. They want to play in the Open Division this season.


A win over View Park Prep on Feb. 7 should clinch it. And count on the Ebiriekwe brothers to deliver.

Nike Extravaganza: In case no one has noticed, this season there have been few long lines of people trying to get into basketball games.

“The circus has left the town,” as one Chino Hills fan put it.

Yes, LaVar Ball and LaMelo Ball are attracting attention in Lithuania. Meanwhile, Chino Hills has moved on. The Huskies are 14-8 and led by 6-9 junior Onyeka Okongwu.


They will be in the featured game against host Santa Ana Mater Dei at 8:45 p.m. Saturday in the annual Nike Extravaganza. There are nine games scheduled and plenty of seats to fill.

Coaching honor: Robert Garrett of Crenshaw was named the NFL’s high school football coach of the year on Sunday at the Pro Bowl. The Don Shula Award also brings a $15,000 donation to the football program. He was nominated by the Chargers.

Twitter: @latsondheimer