Suiting Back Up
By Robert Daski
Originally ran on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 in the Potomac News
Matt Hilleary still wants to play basketball, even if it means going overseas.
The former Seton School and Catholic University star leaves Sept. 25 for Ireland to play for the Glen Eagle Lakers. The team is based in Killarney, a town in the southwest corner of the country.
The 6-foot-8 forward welcomes the opportunity.
"I probably should have tried to do something a couple of years ago," said Hilleary, 25. "But really there is no reason not too. When I'm 45 or 50 years old, I don't want to look back and think I didn't try my best."
Hilleary graduated from Seton in 1999, averaging 22 points per game, 12.9 rebounds and five blocked shots a game as a senior. He finished his prep career with 1,556 points and 924 rebounds.
As a college sophomore, Hilleary played on Catholic's 2001 Division III national championship team, averaging 12.5 points per game and 6.7 rebounds.
His college career was capped in 2003 when D3hoops.com named him to its All America Fourth team. He also was named to the All-Mid Atlantic Region first team and selected the Capital Athletic Conference player of the year for the second straight year.
Hilleary averaged a team-leading 17.4 points per game and eight rebounds as a senior in 2002-03 and graduated from Catholic with a degree in civil engineering.
Hilleary yearned to remain associated with basketball once his college career ended. But burnout hit and the conditioning he benefited from in college suffered.
"The funny thing is for a couple years I wasn't doing anything to keep my basketball career afloat," Hilleary said. "I got out of shape and I was only playing every once in a while. I reached a certain point eight or nine months ago where I realized it wasn't a good idea to continue down that path.
"I had been a little burned out from playing, so I relaxed. I'd go to work and watch football."
Hilleary received offers to continue playing basketball, one of which came from a Pro-Am league team, but nothing to where he wanted to commit.
He eventually found work at John C. Grimberg Company, Inc., a construction company based in Rockville, Md. After leaving there, he formed his own contracting business, which he works out of in Maryland and Manassas.
But Hilleary remembered how much basketball meant to him.
"Every once in a while, I'd go back and see my old high school and college play," Hilleary said. "If you ask anybody who's played their whole life competitively, they would miss it. I watched games on television, and I always wished I'd be out there too. I wanted just to compete and play."
An opportunity to play finally came when former Catholic and All-Conference guard Sean Tuohey put him in contact with two Ireland-based teams. Hilleary was soon given two offers, one of which he accepted.
"I got a couple offers from teams over there," Hilleary said. "Killarney was a great situation."
His family heritage factors in as his paternal grandmother was raised in Central Ireland.
Hilleary wants to make this work. He is guaranteed a spot on the Lakers' roster and will sign his contract when he arrives in Ireland.
He is working back into playing shape by holding individual training sessions at home. He participated in two summer leagues.
"I'm working out a lot at the house and I lost about 15 pounds," Hilleary said. "Now I'm going to have to gain back muscle and get in position where I'm able to start training camp and go. I'm ready to play physically."
Hilleary will suspend operations of his company until he returns home.
He wants to take advantage of his opportunity in Ireland.
"I've always had kind of an inkling in the back of my mind that I wanted to search for what I was calling to be doing," he said. "Hopefully for the next few years I've found it."