Since the middle of December the St. Mary’s Ryken High School boys and girls basketball teams have been busy practicing inside the spacious Donnie Williams Center on campus in anticipation of the potential start of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference season.

Both the Knights’ boys and girls basketball teams compete in what is regarded as the toughest conference in the Mid-Atlantic region and some observers would contend the best basketball conference on the East Coast. St. Mary’s Ryken’s boys’ basketball team officially kicked off its season at home on Monday with a 74-62 loss to Avalon. The Knights were scheduled to begin their WCAC slate on Wednesday at home against Bishop McNamara of Prince George’s County.

With the teams expecting to start a minimal schedule this month — roughly half the teams will likely compete — St. Mary’s Ryken coaches and players are eagerly looking forward to the opportunity.

“One thing I keep reminding these guys is that we should feel blessed,” Walter Booth, St. Mary’s Ryken fourth-year boys basketball coach, said. “We had one morning practice last week when the guys came out a little sluggish. I kept reminding them that there are a lot of players in Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C., that would love for the chance to get up at 6 [o’clock] in the morning just to be able to practice.”

St. Mary’s Ryken senior Aaron Jasper has taken the message to heart in recent weeks.

While neighboring public schools in St. Mary’s County have had very limited sports seasons this school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Knights have been busy since Dec. 10.

Jasper is among those players looking to have 10 to 12 games simply to put the finishing touches on their high school careers.

“I’m excited about having the chance to play,” said Jasper, a Clinton native who has gotten looks from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and the University of Idaho. “This is my senior year, so any games I could get would be great. These practices have done a good job of bringing us all together. It’s been great physically and mentally just being out here.”

St. Mary’s Ryken fourth-year girls’ basketball coach Toya Somerville also admitted the last few weeks together have helped the Knights bond. With only a trio of seniors on the roster, Somerville is looking for that group to lead the way for the younger group of players that represent the future for the program in subsequent seasons.

“This is really a rebuilding season for us,” said Somerville, who also spent three seasons as The King’s Christian Academy girls’ basketball coach. “We have three seniors that we’re going to lean on this year for their leadership. But most of my girls are underclassmen. This year will be a great learning experience for them. We play in the toughest conference [in the region] so each practice is a chance to teach them what they need to look for.”

St. Mary’s Ryken senior Drew Pettis also viewed the possible 2021 season as a chance to interact with her current teammates and perhaps secure a college offer for the following winter.

Pettis, who plans to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Angela Pettis, and major in nursing in college, has enjoyed the chance to interact with her teammates throughout December.

“I think all of the practices have been beneficial, physically and mentally,” said Pettis, an Accokeek resident who sports a lofty 4.36 GPA and would like to attend a Maryland-based college.

“Of course, our main goal is the get to the [WCAC] championship,” she said. “But mainly we all want to get better and enjoy this last season together. I am truly going to miss all of my teammates.”

While the St. Mary’s Ryken boys and girls basketball teams are slated to commence their WCAC schedules this week, St. Mary’s public schools have their return to the gym placed on hold.

Chopticon, Great Mills and Leonardtown were supposed to resume winter sports practices on Jan. 4, but the school system announced Dec. 31 that winter sports have been placed on hold for the time being with no set date for a return.

Twitter: @TedSoMdNews

Twitter: @TedSoMdNews