Victoria Vivians is one of the top recruits in the 2014 class. The 6-1 guard has scored over 4,100 points in her career.
FOREST, Miss. -- Krista Donald may not realize it, but she helped discover the next great girls' basketball player to come out of Mississippi.
Donald is currently a sophomore for the No. 9 Georgia women’s basketball team. -- but rewind to three years ago, and the all-state guard from Mississippi was at the center of a major recruiting battle between a handful of SEC and ACC schools. In February 2010, a half-dozen college scouts were in the stands to watch Donald as her Lake High School took on rival Scott Central. What the scouts saw that night was a 30-point, 10-rebound performance -- but not by Donald but by eighth grader Victoria Vivians.
“They were all there to see Donald,” recalls Scott Central coach Chad Harrison, “but after the game, every one of those college coaches was outside our locker room asking about Victoria.”
Vivians, still in middle school at the time, started every varsity game for the Scott Central that season and the budding star averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds per game as she helped her team to a 24-8 record and a visit to the South State semifinals.
After that night in February, recruiting letters started pouring in and Vivians received her first scholarship offer from Southern Mississippi. But Victoria remembers her breakthrough season more fondly as the year she played along side her older step-sister Kelcia Bufkin, who now plays point guard for Central Arkansas.
“It meant a lot to be able to play with my sister,” says Victoria. “She helped me learn the game -- I really looked up to her.”
Early on Vivians set the goal to follow in her sister's footsteps, but that was only part of her development by the family. Victoria was also toughened up by her three older brothers, who were all standout varsity basketball players.
“I made her work on her left hand and I told her to be aggressive and not to play like a girl,” says oldest brother Darryl. “I’m so proud of her, and it’s not just basketball. She has good grades, she has a good reputation and she’s really humble.”
As a freshman, Victoria averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds a game, and with plenty of talented players around her, the Rebels went 32-3 and won the 2A Mississippi state championship -- with Vivians the MVP of the tournament and a member of the all-state team.
During her sophomore campaign, Vivians led the nation in scoring with 37 points per game, a feat that was honored by her jersey being hung in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee -- currently on display until May of 2013. She also swept every major award in the state, including Gatorade Player of the Year, a rare feat for a sophomore.
Now as a junior, the 6-0 guard is averaging 39.1 points and 15 rebounds per game, currently third in the nation in scoring (behind Tyra Buss of Mt. Carmel (IL) 39.3 ppg, and Ashley Kelsick of Highland (CA) 40.1 ppg). Vivians, ranked No. 11 in the 2014 Full Court Fresh 50, has already scored more than 1,000 points this season and more than 3,700 in her varsity career. She’s had six games with 50 or more points this season, including a career high 62 against rival Lake High School to lead her team to a 69-67 win.
“Her game is indescribable," says teammate Teelisa Kennedy. "It’s a God-given talent." Kennedy, a senior for the Rebels, says playing with Victoria has been an experience she’ll never forget.
“We’ve had a lot of athletes come through Scott Central, but Victoria is special,” adds Harrison, who has coached girls' basketball for 18 years. “She’s a knock down three-point shooter, she has a great midrange and she can get to the basket. She’s not a shooter, she’s a scorer.”
The result? Nearly every college coach in America has paid a visit to middle-of-nowhere Mississippi to watch Victoria play. Scott Central is located in Forest, a small rural community about 55 miles east of Jackson where poultry farming is the major industry -- a place where the number of chickens in the area out number the 6,000 residents 1,000 to one.
“No one knew where Scott Central was, but they do now,” says Victoria’s father, a truck driver who stands 6-6 and played basketball for East Central Junior College. “Sometimes I don’ t know what to think about it all. I just want to give her all the support I can and see her go to college”
College is undoubtedly in her future, Vivians is now being heavily recruited by over a dozen top programs including South Carolina, Baylor, Georgia, Louisville, Southern Mississippi, Stanford, Duke, LSU, Kentucky and Florida. To date, she has taken unofficial visits to all of the Mississippi schools and to Louisville, but doesn’t plan to narrow her decision until the end of the summer.
If Victoria decides to take a visit to Georgia, hopefully she will take a moment to thank the player who put her on the map ... Krista Donald.