BY SYDNEY BECKER
The university recruited recent high school graduate Anthony Casale of Wilmington Christian School to play on the school’s eSports team for the Super Smash Brothers league starting in the fall. Being a top player in his game, Casale received a major scholarship from the university to contribute his skills as a vital asset to the team.
Kiernan Ensor, eSports coordinator and head coach of the team, stated that when Casale first expressed interest in the university, they did not have a Super Smash Brothers team on campus. This school year the university had the addition of a Super Smash Brothers team, with perfect timing as Casale narrowed down his college search.
“He was in a very competitive search field,” Ensor said. “Over 25 schools offered him scholarships to come compete on their eSports program, some of them full rides or close to full rides.”
Although Casale was sought out by multiple other universities for his gaming skills, he eventually settled on a college close to home and committed to the university. While Casale did not technically receive a full-ride scholarship, Ensor emphasized the significance of his award.
“He is not our first scholarship recipient,” Ensor said. “He’s the first one that received a substantial amount of money. He’s the first one that we would say is getting closer to a full ride, but not quite there yet.”
Because of his advanced gaming skills, Ensor stated that Casale will also be helping out with training for other students while still receiving training himself. Ensor also believes that Casale could help grow the university’s presence in eSports while simultaneously being a good student.
“We will look to augment and supplement his abilities and supplement him so that he gets some opportunity to train in a competitive environment,” Ensor said.
While the program is enthusiastic to have a player like Casale among them, they also look forward to improving the entire eSports program and helping players become their best selves.
“One of the things we’re really excited about that we weren’t able to do because of the pandemic is [that] we’ve committed that this is not just going to be a program where people play games,” Steve Kramarck, associate director for university student centers and program director for eSports, said. “They’re going to get some holistic development.
“We’re in the stages of launching a holistic development program so that students will get exposed to a lot of different things that will help them later in life, rather than just gaming.”
With this new approach, Kramarck has plans for how Casale would fit into this type of training at the university’s eSports team, as well as how it would provide for all other students.
Kramarck was unable to give more detail on the specifics of the development because they have not yet publicly announced it.
Kramarck also expressed his desire to reach the level of traditional sports when it comes to eSports scholarships. Unfortunately, the eSports program is not yet financially viable, but Kramarck said he hopes to achieve this in the upcoming years.
Since Casale is so advanced in his gaming skills, specifically in his playing of the character Mega Man in Super Smash Brothers, there are hopes that he will help the university stand out in eSports.
“I feel like other recruits around the country will take notice that this player of this magnitude chose the University of Delaware,” Kramarck said. “They must have something good going on there.”
Since Casale is one of the top-ranked players in the state, there is sure to be some added pressure.
“Where I think it might be different for a player like Anthony or somebody at that level on any of the titles is there’s probably a little more pressure to back up a reputation,” Kramarck said.
Despite this reputation to uphold, Ensor and Kramarck both expressed their confidence that Casale would be a great fit for the university, and that he will thrive there in the eSports program.
Kramarck also compared Casale’s importance to the team to that of a star football player.
“If you want to draw a parallel to a traditional athletic situation, he is that star quarterback that’s out there that schools are fighting for,” Kramarck said. “For us to have him in our backyard and to be able to get him to come here is really huge for our program.”