Youth Sports Awards: Central Valley’s Dylan Darling sets records on journey to WSU
June 13, 2022 Updated Mon., June 13, 2022 at 6:53 p.m.
Two years ago, then-sophomore Dylan Darling was a defensive specialist and a spark plug off the bench for a senior-laden team that reached the state title game.
A condensed junior season with no state playoffs due to the pandemic, and a less-than-optimal experience with a club team, left Darling with just one college offer heading into his senior season.
He used that to fuel one of the most remarkable, record-setting basketball seasons the Greater Spokane League has ever witnessed.
Darling, the Central Valley senior who broke the league’s single-game points record and Adam Morrison’s single-season scoring average mark, is The Spokesman-Review’s 2022 Big School Boys Athlete of the Year.
Darling poured in 58 points in a win over North Central in February and averaged 33.2 points per game (on 55% shooting) with 8.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 4.4 steals, leading the Bears to an 18-8 record and an appearance at the Class 4A state tournament.
Morrison held the previous season record of 28.5 ppg in 19 league games in the 2002-03 season for Mead.
Darling was named the GSL MVP and earned Class 4A player of the year recognition from the state coaches association.
All of that resulted in Darling receiving an offer from his parents’ alma mater, Washington State, following the state tourney.
Dylan’s father, James Darling, starred at linebacker for WSU in the mid-1990s before playing 10 seasons in the NFL between the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.
The Cougs have always been home for Darling.
“It’s a dream come true,” Darling said on his signing day in April.
“I got off the phone with (WSU coach Kyle Smith) and I was at my dad’s,” he said. “I told my dad, we were crying together. I called my mom, she was crying.
“Growing up a Coug with both parents going there and just kind of growing up knowing what being what a Coug is and being able to do it myself – it’s pretty special.”
Since that time, he’s been working out, scrimmaging and biding his time to get on campus and reflecting on his journey from backup to Pac-12 offer.
“I’m really happy on how everything went,” he said on Friday. “I’m happy how the season ended, obviously not winning as state, ultimately though we probably overachieved as a team. And for me, the goals I set for myself, I feel like I went out and accomplished a lot of things I wanted to do.”
Looking forward, he’s excited to get started in an official capacity and join his teammates in Pullman.
“The roster’s really good,” Darling said. “I’m excited to go down there and contribute in any way, shape or form. I want to learn as much as I can and grow as much as I can.”
Darling said there’s “120% ” difference between high school and college players, especially the physicality.
“TV does those guys no justice on how big, how fast, how quick, how long they are,” he said. “Those are grown men. Just gotta work my way up again.
“That’s something that I’m looking forward to and something that I wanted. … I’m excited to get down there and compete and see what I can do.”
Darling expects to work hard on his 3-point shot over the summer, an aspect that helped to elevate his game his senior year – but still a work in progress.
“With the length at that level, getting the shot off quick, being able to shoot from range, it all factors into it,” he said.
The star guard set the single-game scoring mark on Feb. 1, one week after scoring 47 against Mt. Spokane – which had tied the league’s previous single-game high score.
“I wasn’t really going out there trying to get it,” he said after the game. “On the scoreboard (at North Central), you could see how many points you had and at the end of the first (half), I saw that I had like 30-something. And I was like, ‘Oh, I could probably get it done.’ ”
In the postseason, Darling took his game to another level, pacing the Bears to elimination game wins in the district and regional tournament. He scored 48 points in a 69-66 regional win over Woodinville, in which he scored 29 of his team’s 31 points in the second and third quarters.
“I think what people don’t recognize about (Darling) is just his competitive spirit,” then-acting CV coach Geoff Arte said. “Like, he wasn’t gonna let us lose that game.”
In the loss to fourth-seeded Kamiakin at state, the 6-foot-2 Darling scored 30 points, hitting 12 of 16 at the free-throw line, and dished nine assists, while guarding Kamiakin’s 6-8 post Tyler Bilodeau (Oregon State) much of the second half.
Darling has lots of great memories from his high school career, including playing in the state title game his sophomore year and getting to play in the “Stinky Sneaker” game his senior year at the Arena after missing out his junior year due to the Covid restrictions.
“My first varsity game, when we played (Gonzaga) Prep my sophomore year, that sticks out,” Darling said. “My whole sophomore year, I loved that group. Then my senior year, those are my best friends, guys I came up with.
“I just loved my time at CV. I wouldn’t change it.”
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