Nov. 9, 2012
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - It won't be the only play Colorado State women's basketball fans remember about Taylor Varsho.
But it will be their first in what promises to be a long line of memorable performances in Moby Arena.
During Moby Madness held in mid-October, the event to unveil both the women's and men's teams to Ram fans, Varsho - who stands 5-foot, 6-inches, stood about six feet from the basket, along the left side of the lane.
As men's freshman Jon Octeus ran toward the hoop, she lobbed him a pass - as he jumped over her - for a dunk during one of the night's contests.
Judging by early returns, it won't be the last big play the freshman from Marshfield, Wisc., makes for the Rams.
She made her presence on the team felt immediately in CSU's 61-48 win over Colorado Mines in an exhibition game last week.
Varsho, in the starting lineup, played 29 minutes, had a game-most 11 rebounds to go along with 11 points.
First-year coach Ryun Williams is already impressed with Varsho's toughness and defense. Those are two things he has emphasized for the entire team entering the new season.
"Taylor Varsho is one tough cookie," Williams said. "She is extremely competitive and is probably our best lock-down wing defender."
Williams said he's counting on quality minutes from Varsho at both backcourt spots.
"Taylor has the versatility to play both the point and off-guard spots. She will be leaned upon to play quite a few minutes as a freshman."
Varsho , part of Williams initial recruiting class at CSU, said the team's goal is to bring a Mountain West championship to Fort Collins.
"That's our No. 1 goal: to win the Mountain West. We want to get to that goal," she said.
The Varsho name is synonymous with success.
During her career at Marshfield, Wisc., High School - the same high school attended by her father, Gary, a former major league baseball player, and mother, Kay, Varsho finished her high school career as the school's leading scorer with 1,364 points, including 18.1 points per game as a senior. She was a three-time all-state selection at Marshfield, and was named the conference player of the year as both a junior and senior. That all despite tearing a knee ligament that forced her to miss the first three games of her senior season.
Varsho had plenty of sibling competition in her household. Her older sister, Andie, plays softball at Purdue, and younger brother Daulton plays football and baseball at Marshfield High.
Taylor and Andie were prep teammates, and while they are extremely close, they are extremely competitive as well.
"I don't think we went a day without fighting, because we're both so competitive," she joked. "But, it was always great to play alongside her."
Her father spent eight seasons in the major leagues after having been drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago Cubs in 1982. He also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, and was later a major league coach. He's currently a scout for the Los Angeles Angels. To this day, he remains extremely close to Jim Leyland, currently manager of the Detroit Tigers, who was at the helm during Varsho's days in Pittsburgh.
Kay, meanwhile, ran cross country and track and played basketball at Marshfield High, and later married her high school sweetheart, Gary.
Varsho reflects back on her father's career, and his passion for success.
"He has that competitive fire," she said. "He would tell us stories about how hard he had to work, stories I hope I never have to go through: His story, his travel, his journey. Because of that, our No. 1 goal was always to play Division I athletics."
Gary Varsho watched his daughter's first collegiate performance via webstreaming, and called her immediately following the game.
"He told me great job, that I looked good out there," she said, smiling.
It was the first time, she said, he hasn't been in the stands for one of her games. But both parents will be on hand when the Rams open the regular season Nov. 11 against Montana State at 2 p.m. in Moby Arena.
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