WCAC basketball: St. Mary’s Ryken climbs conference ladder with transfer Jarin Hilson

When Jarin Hilson and his family were pondering a move from West Virginia to the D.C. metro area, a thought relayed by St. Mary’s Ryken Coach Dave Tallman resonated in the point guard’s head.

“When Coach was recruiting me, he said I’d get to play in one of the best conferences in the nation with the WCAC,” Hilson said. “I want to play against the best because that makes me better, so it was a no-brainer.”

But entering the season, the question remained whether the Knights could stand out against some of the best following last season’s 9-19 record that included a 1-17 mark in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and a 10-game losing streak to end the season.

With Hilson serving as one of three talented transfers and the Knights returning all but one player from a year ago, both Tallman and his players weren’t surprised by the chemistry evident during summer league and preseason practices.

“In the summer, we made a huge effort to have a relentless work ethic to fix mistakes of the past,” Tallman said. “We put a lot of effort into shooting the ball and that’s made us a better team, and there’s a lot of leadership among the four seniors we have.”

The top plays from the weekend of high school basketball in the D.C. area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

After getting their first win by forfeit, the Knights registered two victories behind the play of Hilson, whose ability to score and distribute the ball from the point guard spot has helped create a balanced team attack.

“My role is to get the ball out in transition and make a play,” said Hilson, who is averaging 14 points. “I like to pass and make my teammates better, so I’m confident with the ball in my hands that I’ll make the best play for us to score.”

Along with Hilson, junior Donte Etheridge has emerged as a dangerous weapon for the Knights. The six-foot-five guard is averaging a team-best 14.8 points behind his ability to knock down the open shot and get to the rim.

On the defensive end, senior co-captain Jamaal Satisfield provides a spark with his pressure play against the opponent’s best player. His willingness to handle such a task is vital within WCAC competition, where most teams possess at least one high-level Division I recruit.

“I do a little bit of scoring, but I love locking up on defense and taking on the other team’s best guy,” Satisfield said. “Coming into this year, we had high hopes as seniors and wanted to move past last season and contend for the championship.”

So far the Knights have shown themselves to be contenders, playing close games against No. 4 DeMatha and No. 9 O’Connell before falling just short. With a 67-64 loss to DeMatha, the Knights are the only team to not lose by a double-digit margin to the Stags so far this season, while the O’Connell defeat saw the Knights claw back from a 16-point halftime deficit.

But neither Hilson nor Satisfield found much solace in the wake of these losses, or in the fact that their 8-3 mark is already nearly better than last season’s win total.

“We let two games slip away because of little things, so even though we’re happy with our record, we know we can do better,” Hilson said. “This conference has definitely been a transition from back home. The game is faster and more physical, so you have to be smart and not try to do too much. But with our chemistry and talent, we work well in playing off each other.”

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