Center of attention

Max Molski

Val Driscoll spent her first four years of college playing Big 10 basketball at the University of Michigan.

An ACL injury heading into her junior year, however, kept the 6-foot-4 center from playing in her third season with the Wolverines. That left Driscoll with a fifth year of eligibility, and a choice of where to play her final collegiate season.

She immediately called Quinnipiac women’s basketball assistant coach Mountain MacGillivray. Driscoll had known MacGillivray since she was a freshman in high school. She wanted to know if Quinnipiac was interested in her, and had a scholarship available for her or not.

After talking to MacGillivray a few times via phone, the two set up a visit for Driscoll to come see Quinnipiac in person.

Driscoll was the first player that the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team had ever recruited with fifth-year eligibility, though. Quinnipiac women’s basketball head coach Tricia Fabbri sought help from some people familiar with the process: some of the coaches of the men’s basketball team.

“It is something that we have never done in the past, but it is also something that the men have done with Umar Shannon when he got injured late in the season,” Fabbri said.

Fabbri was alluding to the fact that the men’s basketball team had successfully recruited point guard Umar Shannon prior to the 2013-14 season, after Shannon sat a full season due to injury.

“We had asked [the men’s team] about the process, but it was really Val’s decision to finish with her undergraduate degree at Michigan and then look here,” Fabbri said.

Driscoll ultimately chose to play her final season at Quinnipiac. Her decision to come to Hamden, though, was much more than just a basketball choice. She wanted to be closer to her family, as she grew up in Stoughton, Mass.

“The change was a very personal decision for me,” Driscoll said. “I had a few deaths in my family, and I was not able to come home as much as I wanted to. At the end of the day, I had to make the decision that was best for me and best for my family.”

“Being able to come home and only be two hours from my family is what I was looking for.”

And for Fabbri, landing Driscoll might have been the biggest offseason move the Bobcats made.

“She is so imposing down inside at 6-foot-4,” Fabbri said. “She moves really well north and south, east and west with her size. When we have one of the best point guards in the country [Gillian Abshire] being able to feed a 6’4” kid, you really do get easy buckets.”

If you happen to stumble upon one of the team’s games this year, you don’t have to look very far to see the impact Driscoll has had at Quinnipiac, which is currently 19-3 on the season and 11-0 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play.

Driscoll has started every game at center for the Bobcats this year, averaging 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest while shooting a team-best 53.4 percent from the floor.

She had developed a passion for basketball among other sports at a young age, which led her to her current success at Quinnipiac.

Driscoll attributed her passion toward sports to her mother, Randi, her father, Thomas, and her two brothers.

“I think growing up we were always playing some type of sport, we were always out doing something,” Driscoll said. “Sports were always on [television] when we were growing up. Sports have always been a part of our life.”

Driscoll started playing basketball in third grade. In middle school, she began playing AAU hoops, traveling to many areas to hone her skills.

“[The year-round basketball] was something we became used to,” Driscoll said. “It was always flip-flopping AAU tournaments and there was always basketball on the calendar.”

Driscoll went to Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, Mass. Although she played volleyball her freshman and sophomore year, basketball was always her commitment and passion. Archbishop won the state championship in both Driscoll’s freshman and sophomore season, made it to the state semifinals her junior year, and lost in the championship when she was a senior.

“With that program, my high school team was always very competitive. And since graduating they have been back to the championship multiple times,” Driscoll said.

In high school, Driscoll was recruited by the University of Michigan, Boston University and Northeastern University, among other schools. She decided to attend the University of Michigan to play basketball.

“When I went out for my visit there, I fell in love with the campus,” Driscoll said. “I fell in love with the people there and the girls on the team. It was pretty hard to turn something as great as Michigan down.”

Kevin Borseth, Michigan’s head coach at the time, had heavily recruited Driscoll.

Going into Driscoll’s junior season, Borseth decided to leave Michigan and return to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Michigan then brought in Kim Barnes Arico from St. John’s University as the program’s next head coach.

Driscoll tore her ACL shortly after , ending her season all together.

In her senior year at Michigan, she started 29 of 34 games at Michigan and averaged 5.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per night.

Driscoll graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in general studies in the spring of 2014. She then found out about her release, which granted her eligibility for one more season, and ultimately was able to come to Quinnipiac.

“She affects both ends of the court,” junior guard Maria Napolitano said. “Offensively, she can bury people inside and defensively she holds down our low-block area, makes it difficult for guards to drive and score over her because of her height.”

Driscoll’s impact is more than what appears in the box score, too.

“What we needed was a center, someone locking down the position because now it allows Jen Fay and Sarah June as freshmen more time to develop and not be thrown into the fire,” Fabbri said.

Napolitano said that Driscoll’s confidence might mean more to the team than any skill she has.

“She gives us some level of maturity because of the status that she has played at,” Napolitano said. “She is a very calm person. She does not get riled up in situations. She gives us a level of calmness when things get out of hand.”

Driscoll says her expectation for the rest of the season is to help Quinnipiac win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Meanwhile, she is attending a student coaching conference at the Final Four this April, and is continuing to pursue her Master’s degree in public relations in preparation for when she graduates.

But for now, her focus remains on the court.

“I think it is important that we all stay focused and follow the scouting report every game,” Driscoll said. “We have to do the little things that we can control and play together as a team, and that will lead us to accomplishing our goals.”