In his first season as head coach of the St. Vincent Pallotti High girls basketball team, Roderick Hairston is grateful to have eight seniors and three juniors.
"It is gratifying for this season and the opportunity to compete immediately," Hairston said of the veteran presence. "But I am in it for more than one season.
"You have seniors with a lot of experience. At the same time they are used to a different style of play. In five months it will be over and we will have to do it again. That is the biggest thing we are learning."
Hairston won five Class 4A public school state titles at Eleanor Roosevelt High before spending one season each at Bishop McNamara and Bullis Prep.
In the first two games, his starting lineup included five seniors, led by 6-foot-1 forward Beverly Ogunrinde.
Ogunrinde has signed to play for Division I James Madison University next season.
"Beverly is an awesome defensive player. She can rebound with the best of them," said Hairston, a crisis intervention specialist in Prince George's public schools. "She is very active and very athletic. She has really been playing for only four years. She probably came into her own late in her sophomore year or early in her junior year. Her upside is so much bigger than what she can show she can do. We have been working on her handling the ball more."
Ogunrinde went to Martin Luther King Middle School with Megan Brown, a senior and one of the top players this season for Laurel High.
Brown has watched Ogunrinde, who transferred to Pallotti from High Point, develop her game over the past few years.
"She has a lot of heart," Brown said. "I have known her for awhile. She has gotten stronger."
The rest of the starting five includes Jo Chaney, Alexis Nolan, D.J. Johnson and Kaiya Coleman.
Senior Zanny Elderidge is one of the first players off of the bench and the other reserves include seniors Drew Arnett and Kasey Calloway and juniors Weslie Young, Jelynn Savoy-Green and Leah Whitehead.
"Truly my philosophy is taught on defense, making the defense turn into offense," Hairston said. "I like to try and put pressure on the ball. I want to be able to turn defense into offense by getting steals and easy baskets. I really want to get up and down the court. That has been the catalyst to most of my success."
Hairston likes to have several players bring the ball up the floor, especially after a defensive rebound.
But traditional point guards on the roster include Johnson and Nolan as well as key reserve Elderidge.
Nolan has attracted the attention of Division II Virginia State, while Division III Goucher College has shown interest in Johnson.
Chaney is being looked at by several schools, including Division I Delaware State, New Haven, Siena and Iona, according to Hairston.
The Panthers began the season with a 75-70 loss to St. Frances Academy on Dec. 2 then lost at home to McDonogh on Dec. 6.
Pallotti plays Dec. 13 at Archbishop Spalding in Severn.
Hairston is no stranger to some of the top prep conferences in the region, as McNamara competed in the strong Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC).
He won a regular-season title in his only season at McNamara then won another league title last season with Bullis Prep, which is also a private school.
Hairston took over for Josh Pratt, and has been impressed with the competition in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.
Hairston figures McDonogh and St. Frances will be two of the top teams, but Roland Park, Seton Keough and John Carroll will also be formidable foes.
"My goal is more set to the playoffs and being able to advance in the playoffs," he said.