Q & A with Eastern District POY Jaylani Darden

Norview junior Jaylani Darden (photo credit: Jessica Dickason/i64sports)

by Jamaar Hawkins, i64sports

This year’s All Eastern District boys teams were announced earlier this week and it was no surprise to see Norview junior guard Jaylani Darden as the selection for Player of the Year.

Darden averaged 20 points, seven rebounds seven assists and three steals, leading the Pilots to an Eastern District title, Region 5A runner-up finish and co-Class 5 state championship.

Here is our Q & A with Darden where we discuss his Player of the Year selection and what the award does to supplementing missing out on his first-ever state title game. Check it out!

Jamaar: How does it feel to earn the Player of the Year selection this season?

Darden: It feels surreal to be honest. I just know that I worked hard and stay focused and trusted the process. I’m also grateful that other people saw my hardwork and dedication. Also, I’m grateful that the Eastern District recognized my hard work and dedication to my team and our program.

Jamaar: What were you doing when you found out?

Darden: School had just let out and Coach Rick {Roster} called the whole team back for a team meeting and then announced the teams!

Jamaar: Was this before or after you found out there wouldn’t be a state championship game?

Editor’s note- This year’s Virginia High School League state basketball championships were canceled due to recent coronavirus pandemic.

Darden: After

Jamaar: What did that do to make up for not being able to play the championship game?

Darden: Noting really, because there is no replacement for all the work we put in as a team to get to the championship. However, I believe things happen according to God’s plans so I try not to dwell on things I can’t control.

Jamaar: Did you have that rematch with Green Run in the back of your mind throughout the state tournament?

Darden: Yes sir! That goes both way, but the way things played out it worked in both teams’ favor. We’re all state champs. They did it for AJ and we did it for Lashaun.

Jamaar: Have you have an opportunity to reflect on the season yet? If so, what are you most proud of accomplishing as a team?

Darden: Yes. What I keep saying is I can’t believe the season is over. However, my grind won’t stop. I still have to work to do. But to answer your question I’m most proud of our brotherhood. We got this far together. It wasn’t one person. We collectively put our blood, sweat and tears into this season, into every game. We left in on the court.

Jamaar: What would you say was the toughest game of the season for you guys?

Darden: Between Kings Forks, Green Run and Patrick Henry

Jamaar: What about for you individually?

Darden: I would probably would say Norcom the second time around.

Jamaar: What was tough about that game?

Darden: My shots weren’t falling. The humidity in the gym and I just didn’t have enough energy that game.

Jamaar: How are you dealing with the shutdown due to the coronavirus?

Darden: It’s tough, but I get it in where I can. I’ve gone back to the basics, hitting the court in the back of my house.

Jamaar: What about the seniors? What was it like playing with guys like Jamal, Jahn and Jasiya?

Darden: For me, I’ve been playing with these guys since third grade so there’s always been a connection. They are my brothers. This season was an honor. We brought the title back together!

Jamaar: So on to recruiting. What kind of interest are you getting right now?

Darden: Several I appreciate them all. Just taking it in.

Jamaar: What schools have offered already?

Darden: Hampton, Norfolk State, Old Dominion, VCU

Jamaar: Is that the order of interest from you?

Darden: No

Jamaar: Are you worried about the possibility of no AAU or a shortened AAU season?

Darden: A little bit of both. If it is I will just train my mind and body right for my senior year.

Jamaar: What about recruiting? Will this make you think about making a decision a little earlier now?

Darden: Not really I’m in no rush. I will weigh all my options and when the time is right I will make the best decision for my future.