OHIO CITY, Oh - Confidence has been the key for Saint Ignatius big man CJ Yarian as he will be continuing his academic and basketball career at Hillsdale College next winter. The 6’10” center will continue the Yarian name at Hillsdale as his brother Austen '17 is a current senior for the Chargers. Yarian will be playing Division II college basketball in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference in Hillsdale, Michigan.
“It’s nice for me to have that stress off of me,” says Yarian. “I can focus on basketball and school the rest of the way.” Yarian is a senior captain for the Basketball Cats as he is an integral part for Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce. When Joyce was named head coach in 2019, Yarian was a sophomore and called him to the varsity roster. Joyce knew Yarian’s potential as soon as he came in as coach at Saint Ignatius.
“It’s surreal seeing him commit to a college,” explains Joyce. “I remember the first time I met him; he was this 6’6” skinny kid who could shoot. I noticed from the start he knew how to pass and understand the game. He kept improving as a sophomore and on our trip to Miami in 2019, he started his first varsity game.”
Saint Ignatius basketball produces excellent talent at the center position, especially in the previous three season’s under coach Joyce. Yarian joined the varsity roster with tremendous talent down low in Henry Raynor '21, Will Yontek ’21, Nick Lamirand ’21, Alex Garcia ’21 and Aidan Hubbard ’21. Yarian has developed into a dominant force in the paint and behind the three-point line for the Wildcats and took his experience from former teammates to produce on the floor.
“Any time you get to practice with outstanding players is huge. It is very valuable,” Joyce explains. “In practice, you get to work on your game and going against Yontek, Raynor, Lamirand, Garcia and Hubbard helped develop him as a player.”
Yarian mentions how much the pandemic has affected the recruiting process at the high school level and is grateful for the opportunity to continue to play at the college level and Hillsdale. “Recruiting took a turn when the pandemic started; there were a lot of players transferring in and out,” says Yarian. “I thought Hillsdale was the right place at the right time and went for it.”
With the commitment to Hillsdale college, Yarian credits former teammate Raynor and brother Austen on his growth in the game of basketball. “Growing up with Austen, we always battled each other on the basketball court, followed in his footsteps and tried to be better than him like when we were kids,” explains Yarian. “Henry was a mentor for me the past two years and I learned a lot from him and being able to grow from what he has taught me got me to where I am this season.”
Confidence was a significant factor for Yarian over the summer after his junior year. You can see the improvement in the starting center, which averages a double-double for the Wildcats this season. “I needed to work on my confidence with the game,” Yarian explains. “Working on my mental game first helped my skills on the court. I knew I had the talent to play college basketball, but I needed to keep working to showcase my talent.”
The Wildcats are a State Championship contender in the 2021-22 season after making a State Semifinal appearance last season. Yarian has been a significant piece in the success of the Wildcats and coach Joyce believes that his center can develop even more before heading off to Hillsdale.
“He still has so much more growth as a player,” says Joyce. “I think he can get even better. Right now, he is working to become more consistent. I’m happy for him and his family.”