Chad Harrison knew something was wrong with his All-State player.
The Scott Central High School girls basketball coach waited until the end of practice Monday to check with Victoria Vivians to see what was bothering her.
He quickly realized Vivians had come to a decision that was going to end a national recruiting battle.
“I want to go to Mississippi State,” Vivians told Harrison.
Those seven words set off a chain reaction of phone calls, text messages, emails, and tweets that spread the word that one of the country’s top prep basketball players was coming to Starkville to join coach Vic Schaefer’s women’s basketball program.
“She is truly unstoppable,” Harrison said Monday night. “She can do anything. She can shoot the ball from 30 feet, she can post up around the basket and score with either hand, she can finish in traffic, and can rebound the ball on one end and score down at the other end in three seconds.”
Vivians, a 6-foot guard/forward, was named a first-team All-American by MaxPreps after averaging 39.7 points and leading Scott Central to its second Class 2A state title in three seasons. Vivians also averaged 15.1 rebounds, four steals, and one block last season, and has been named first-team All-State in each of her first three seasons. She was the nation’s second leading scorer this season. Her scoring average eclipsed the 37.6 points per game Mary Kathryn Govero averaged in 2006-07. Govero, who played at Mt. Salus Christian School in Clinton, went on to play for four years at MSU. She finished her MSU career with 1,173 points, which is 12th in program history.
Vivian’s scoring prowess is just one reason nearly all of the top programs in the nation sought her. After Vivians narrowed her choices to MSU, Florida, Louisville, and Kentucky, Harrison saw his standout player was ready to end the recruiting process. He said Vivians expressed a desire to go to MSU last fall but that he encouraged her and her family to take their time with the decision and to make sure she was certain where she wanted to go. He said he called Victoria’s father, John, as soon as she told him the news and began calling coaches and media outlets.
“I am proud because I wanted this to be her decision,” said Harrison, a MSU graduate. “I didn’t want her to go to Mississippi State because of me and not have it be the right fit for her.”
Harrison said Vivians’ ties with her family likely played a key role in her decision to stay in the state. He said Vivians typically has 50-60 family members at all of her games, and she usually has a huge following everywhere she goes. He credited her family for helping her remain grounded throughout the process and Vivians for being a wonderful young lady to coach.
“I think she truly believes in the vision coach Schaefer has for the program,” Harrison said. “Last summer when she was at camp, he brought her in and he and Scott Stricklin said they want her to be the face of Mississippi State basketball and lead the program into the future. They said the program did special things with Tan White (Tupelo) and LaToya Thomas (Greenville) and that the program could do even more with her. They told her that if she made a commitment other players in the region would come. I think she is satisfied with the pieces in her recruiting class and where everything is heading and that she believes she can win there. I think she is sold that (Schaefer) has a really good vision and a good follow through and that she will be successful.”
Dan Olson, director of Dan Olson’s Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and espnW HoopGurlz, has Vivians rated the No. 24 player in the Class of 2014. Bret McCormick, of All-Star Girls Report, another national recruiting service, has Vivians ranked No. 40 in the nation. Both men believe Schaefer and his staff secured a player with a wealth of talent and potential who could help push MSU into the upper echelon of the Southeastern Conference.
“It is another big get for Vic Schaefer because he has another good athlete,” Olson said. “I don’t want to sit here and say she is a program-changer, but she can be. He is moving right along into the mix of the SEC and getting athletes who can help Mississippi State compete against the other schools that are athletic.”
Said McCormick, “Vic and (assistant coach) Aqua (Franklin) and the rest of the coaching staff stuck a feather in their caps because they did good. She should pay major dividends right away.”
Vivians is part of a recruiting class that includes Starkville High School guard Blair Schaefer, who is Vic Schaefer’s daughter, and Morgan William, a point guard from Shades Valley High in Birmingham, Ala. William gave a verbal commitment to MSU in July. Olson had William ranked 278th in the Class of 2014 at the time of her commitment. She has since moved up to No. 139 in the country. McCormick had William ranked 254th in country at the time of her verbal commitment.
The three commitments come on the heels of a 2013 signing class that includes Dominique Dillingham, an All-State player from Texas, Chinwe Okorie, a center from Stoneleigh-Burnham (Mass.) School, Breanna Richardson, an All-State player from Georgia, Kiki Patterson, an All-State player from Columbus High School, Ketara Chapel, an All-State player from Texas, and Savannah Carter, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College. New Albany High standout Jazmine Spears also signed with MSU but didn’t qualify academically and is at Trinity Valley C.C.
Olson ranked the class of seven players No. 35 in his national rankings. Richardson, who is No. 77 in Olson’s individual rankings, is the highest-rated player in the class. Carter is the 27th-best junior college player, according to Olson.
College coaches can’t comment on signings until they receive a signed National Letter of Intent. A verbal commitment is non-binding. The first day of the early signing period is Nov. 13. It runs to Nov. 20. Harrison said he anticipates Vivians signing a NLI in the early signing period. He said the family likely would hold a signing ceremony at the school.
Schaefer said earlier this year that building on a 7-for-7 effort in the initial recruiting class was imperative for the program to become even more competitive after three-straight losing seasons. With a marquee player like Vivians at the top of what likely will be another highly ranked class, Olson said Schaefer and his staff have laid a foundation that will help the program compete at a higher level.
“She gives a dimension that can really stretch the defense so you have to respect the other kids on the floor,” Olson said. “She jacks that thing from 30 feet and it goes in most of the time. If she gets the (scoring) numbers like she did in high school then she will be an elite game-changer, but she is not going to get that many shots with the other kids they have playing around her. If she (duplicates her high school numbers) she for certain will change the landscape at Mississippi State.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.