Strong resurgence for Stoughton’s Val Driscoll
Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico knew that she would have to rely on a young and inexperienced roster this season. The Wolverines graduated five seniors, representing 90 percent of the team’s scoring, from last year’s 22-11 squad, one of the most successful in school history.
The exodus left Val Driscoll , a 6-foot-4 center from Stoughton, as the only senior on the roster. Yet, Barnes Arico didn’t know what kind of contribution to expect from Driscoll.
Highly recruited after a stellar career at Archbishop Williams, Driscoll missed last season while she rehabbed from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered playing summer ball in 2012. After only limited action as freshman and sophomore, Driscoll has been inserted as Michigan’s starting center despite just playing 80 career minutes before this season — and only 19 minutes over six games in the past two years.
“I wasn’t sure how she would be able to battle back from the injury,” said Barnes Arico, in her second year on the Michigan bench. “I didn’t know a whole lot about her. I watched some film but she hadn’t played a ton of minutes prior to this season so it was kind of hard to really know what she would bring to the table.”
Driscoll has answered any questions about her ability. After three years on the sideline, Driscoll has started seven games for the Wolverines (8-4), who open the Big Ten portion of their schedule at Ohio State on Jan. 5. Driscoll is averaging 4.8 rebounds and just under five points per game and leads the team with 17 blocks.
“Val provides an inside presence that we just haven’t had,” said Barnes Arico. “She has a great body, great size, and great length. She really alters shots and gives us a defensive presence inside, as well as posting up on offense and she seals quite well.”
In her first collegiate start against Arizona, Driscoll responded by scoring four points with seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and a steal in a 73-71 victory. She logged 37 minutes and had a game-high 11 rebounds, six blocks, and five points when Michigan nearly upset 15th-ranked LSU, dropping a 64-62 decision.
For Driscoll, the resurgence in her game is terrific, especially after suffering such a devastating injury when she was finally expected to contribute as a junior. “I can’t even put this into words how good it feels to be playing again and just be back on the court with my teammates,” said Driscoll. “It’s an amazing feeling.
“The injury definitely made me appreciate the game that much more and made me realize how much I love playing basketball. When you’re watching from the sidelines, it really hits you.”
Driscoll arrived at Michigan with a strong resume. She became the first player at Archbishop Williams to score 1,000 points while grabbing 1,000 rebounds, and helped the Braintree school to consecutive Division 3 state titles in 2007 and 2008.
Driscoll saw action in 16 games as a freshman at Michigan, scoring a season-high eight points against Wake Forest. Her playing time tailed off considerably as a sophomore, when she played in six games. This year, however, Driscoll is averaging 20 points a game and bringing a much needed senior presence to an inexperienced squad.
“Val spent a tremendous amount of time working her way back into shape in the off-season and she’s just doing a tremendous job for us,” said Barnes Arico. “She has really developed herself into a shot blocker as well as a defensive presence on the inside. She’s getting more and more confident offensively and her shooting percentage is extremely high. Her minutes have just continued to increase.”
Relying mostly on the hook shot she developed at Archies, Driscoll is converting a team-high 71 percent from the field (25-of-35), including a 6-for-6 performance (12 points) in a 73-53 win over Virginia.
“Knowing that this is my senior year, and I wasn’t able to play last year and help my team, it’s important for me to get better every day and help my team to be successful in whatever role I fill,” said Driscoll.
Barnes Arico is certain that Driscoll’s offensive game will continue to improve and she sees more time on the court. To date, many opponents have overlooked Driscoll, although Barnes Arico expects that to change as the season progresses.
“I’m sure she’s taken a ton of our competitors by surprise,” she said. “Nobody really knew who she was, coming into this year. I’m sure people are wondering who she is and where she came from. But she keeps getting more minutes and making more of an impact for us.”
Here and there
Christina Deiorio (Stoughton) has moved into a starting role for the Curry College women’s basketball team. Deiorio, a junior guard, has started all seven games for the Colonels (4-3, 1-1 Commonwealth Coast Conference), and averages 6.1 points per game. A 2011 graduate of Cardinal Spellman, Deiorio had a season-high 16 points in a 69-56 win over Johnson & Wales, making all four 3-pointers she attempted. . .
Junior forward Carl Joseph (Brockton) is leading the University of Massachusetts Boston men’s basketball team in scoring (20.3 points per game) to go with 5.8 rebounds. The 6-foot-5 three-sport star from Brockton High also leads the team with 14 blocked shots. Ryan LaPaglia , a freshman from Marshfield, has started six games for the Beacons (3-5) and is averaging three points a game and has a team-high 13 steals. . .
Freshman Alison Quinn (Canton) is leading the Saint Anselm women’s hockey team with 7 goals and four assists. She earned ECAC Women’s East Rookie of the Week honors after recording four points in victories over Trinity and Williams. The 2013 Athlete of the Year at Southfield School had a pair of goals, including the game winner, against Trinity.
John R. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com