Loaded basketball team begins season with tremendous expectations

Noam Jacobovitz

With an influx of transfers and a returning core, Wilson basketball hopes to prove that they are the top team in the area this season. After winning the DC Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA)  championship for the first time in 31 years, and reaching the DC State Athletic Association semifinals, the Tigers look poised to cement themselves as the best team in the DMV while gaining national exposure.

After losing their first two games to St. Johns and Maret last season, Wilson ended up with a stellar 29-4 record. The Tigers dominated DCIAA play, losing only one regular season game to Roosevelt, who they later beat by 19 points in the DCIAA championship. Wilson also had two quality wins over HD Woodson, including an utterly dominant 22 point triumph in the DCIAA semifinals. The Tigers had a nice run in the DCSAA playoffs, beating Friendship Collegiate and the SEED School, but eventually fell short in the semifinals against a Gonzaga team with elite D1 talents like current Miami freshman Chris Lykes Jr. and Notre Dame commit Prentiss Hubb.

Wilson now enters this season looking to take a leap on last year’s efforts. The team lost veteran leadership this off-season, with key players Marquise Copeland and Isaiah Jennings graduating. Even with those players moving on, much of the team’s core is still intact. Seniors Ayinde Hikim and Ricky Lindo Jr. are looking to use their star power balanced with great teamwork to leave no unfinished business when they graduate Wilson in June.

Hikim realizes that being a senior comes with great responsibility. “I think that my role has changed as a senior because I am a leader now and a lot of the younger players look up to me,” says Hikim.

Juniors Romaro Hutchinson, Deandre Perkins, and Carlos Dunn have played a key role in the Wilson basketball program over the past two seasons, and they will play a huge part this season in guiding this team along with the seniors.

Three out of the top four scorers from this past season returned, and Wilson gained a pair of star Bishop O’Connell guards, junior Jay Heath and sophomore Dimingus Stevens in the off-season by way of transfer. Heath currently holds an offer from Kansas State, bringing even more D1 talent to the already stacked team. Heath and Stevens have found no trouble incorporating themselves quickly into the lineup for this season, with Heath beginning the season as a starter and Stevens being the first scoring option off the bench. After coming from a decorated program at O’Connell that has produced the likes of former Maryland star Melo Trimble, Stevens thinks that Wilson, is the “best fit” for him. Stevens adds that the transition, “wasn’t hard,” but it is important at a new school to “manage your time wisely and make smart decisions.”

The off-season was crucial for developing chemistry with the influx of transfers. “Coming off a championship it seems as if everyone is going to play with 110 percent effort when facing us, thinking they have something to prove,” says Perkins. This belief pushed the Tigers to be, “either in the gym, weight room or on the track every single day this off-season,” said Perkins.

Hutchinson stressed that “trust in each other” improving was a major accomplishment during the off-season, Lindo Jr. says, “defense, post presence, and rebounding,” were another focus of the team during the time off.

The Wilson Tigers have high expectations this season, and are looking to defend the DCIAA title and improve on their DCSAA semi-final finish. Hutchinson says a key focus this year is, “to win as a team and not take it easy on any opponent.” Hutchinson confirmed the high expectations of, “winning the DCIAA championship, then go on to win the DCSAA championship.”

Perkins shares the same sentiment of winning both championships, adding, “after falling short at states last year to Gonzaga, we’re coming back hungrier… every time we step on the court [we have to] give it our all.”  

Lindo Jr., wants Wilson to be noticed nationally, “…gain as much exposure as possible in a good way,” and win the DCIAA and DCSAA. Wilson already looks like the favorite to win the DCIAA and are now favorites to win the DCSAA according to The Washington Post preseason rankings. Ayinde Hikim was also labeled as part of the preseason First Team All-Met by Prep Hoops.

Wilson is currently number three in The Washington Post top 20 basketball rankings, and they are ranked as the top team in DC. Only WCAC powerhouses Paul VI and DeMatha are ranked in front of the Tigers. Gonzaga, who beat Wilson last year in the state semifinals, comes in at number five after guard Prentiss Hubb tore his ACL. But Gonzaga will still be dangerous, led by Penn State commit Myles Dread.

Other DCSAA competition in the top 20 includes St. John’s, led junior Casey Morsell and UMass commit Tre Wood, at number six, and Sidwell Friends, led by NC State commit Saddiq Bey, at number 11. No other DCIAA teams are in the top 20. DCIAA competition looks to be weaker after HD Woodson star Kiyon Boyd transferred to Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia, and Roosevelt’s three top scorers graduated.

Wilson currently sits at 4-2. The Tigers began the season with three straight wins against Rock Creek Christian Academy (#12 in Washington Post rankings), Bladensburg (#14 in Washington Post rankings), and IDEA. Next, in the Gonzaga DC Classic, they lost to Cardinal Hayes (NY) in a tough two point defeat. They also lost to Riverdale Baptist (#15 in Washington Post rankings) before finishing seventh in the tournament with a win against St. Maria Goretti. Wilson is currently led by top scorers Ayinde Hikim (20.4 ppg) and Jay Heath (15.6 ppg).