By Tom Robinson
There was something about Rider University that appealed to Victoria Toomey as a fourth-grader playing in an AAU basketball tournament on the Lawrenceville, N.J. campus.
When Toomey’s basketball abilities led to her being recruited by Rider this summer, that first impression helped make her eager to take a second look – and eventually a third.
Toomey received a scholarship offer from the NCAA Division I school during a visit with her mother, former Dunmore standout Carrie (Bowen) Toomey, earlier this month. They returned for a campus tour Monday with Victoria’s father, Pat, and sister, Ciera.
There will be many more family visits there in the future after the JB Hoops Carra player, who is going into her senior year at Dunmore, made a verbal commitment Tuesday to accept the scholarship from Rider.
“I just kind of fell in love with the school as soon as I stepped on campus,” Victoria said. “It’s the perfect size and they have the major I’m looking for, which is sports management.
“The big thing about the major there is it’s a dual major, so you also major in one of the fields in the school of business. I liked how there were the two of them and more versatility with the major.
“Also, I loved the coaches. There was a very good vibe and I liked the approach.”
Victoria, a 6-foot-2 center/forward, was a second-team Class 3A all-state selection for her play last season on Dunmore’s state semifinalist team. She averaged 17 points for the Lackawanna League Division 3 and District 2 Class 3A champions.
Fairleigh Dickinson had also offered Victoria a scholarship. She had been talking to Mount St. Mary’s, had made a visit to Lafayette and had some preliminary interest from Binghamton.
The interest from Division I schools grew after a successful spring summer with the JB Hoops team, culminating in a pool championship and pool all-star selection for Victoria in her AAU career finale at the USJN 17U Championships.
“This is what happens when you have a really good high school coach like Ben O’Brien, who understands the importance that AAU can play in getting your player seen by college coaches,” JB Hoops and Backcourt Hoops owner John Bucci said. “Obviously, a lot of the skill work and development is done by Ben, her high school coach, but also a lot is done by us and where we play allows her to be recognized and have these opportunities to play on the Division I level.”
Carrie Toomey was able to appreciate the significance of the recruiting process culminating in a Division I scholarship. She followed up her own career at Dunmore by earning Division III All-American honors at Franklin & Marshall and playing professionally with the Avesta Sheffield Hatters in the Women’s Premier British Basketball League.
“As I pulled away from Rider after hearing what a Division I scholarship covers, which is every single thing, I now understand,” said Carrie, who received Division I recruiting interest, but after limiting the distance she was willing to look from home, never received a formal offer.
Through AAU basketball, Victoria kept getting more interested schools watching until the offers began following USJN Nationals.
“The process was different back then,” Carrie said of her own playing days. “You didn’t have the access you do to coaches seeing you like they do now with AAU. Coach (Ross) Macciocco sent VHS tapes to everyone.”
While the college coaches were seeing Victoria in person, she was continuing to expand her game, increasing her shooting range and showing off a passing ability from different points on the floor, in addition to her post play.
“You just don’t know how players are going to develop,” said Carrie, who coaches youth basketball, including a younger JB Hoops team. “I think for Victoria, in a year, she really improved her game.
“And, that’s what the coaches from Rider said. There’s even more growth, more yet to come. That’s what they’re exciting about for her, they feel she has even more potential down the road.”
Victoria still has a promising season of high school basketball ahead.
“My timeline was that I wanted to be committed before my high school season starts, so any time in there,” Victoria said. “But, I went to the school and it felt really right, so I felt it was a good time to commit.”
Rider went 10-8 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and finished 14-17 overall. Lynn Milligan is going into her 12th season as head coach at her alma mater and has other graduates of the program on her staff.