Victoria Vivians painfully good
Victoria Vivians woke up last week with a black eye.
How she got it remains a mystery. Vivians, a 6-foot-1 forward for Scott Central (Forest, Miss.) and the nation's second-leading scorer at 45.1 points per game, gets fouled so often that it's impossible to keep track of all the flying forearms and elevated elbows.
"That sucker is tough," Scott Central coach Chad Harrison said of Vivians, the No. 24 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2014 class.
Not to mention determined.
Few people can stop Vivians from doing what she wants on the court. She is expected to set the Mississippi career scoring record on Friday against Union (Miss.). Vivians is 23 points from surpassing Mary Kathryn Govero, a guard who scored 5,015 points for Mt. Salus Christian (Clinton, Miss.) and went on to play at Mississippi State from 2007 to 2011.
The national record of 5,424 -- set by Adrian McGowen of Goodrich (Texas) from 2003 to 2006 -- would be well within Vivians' reach if her full body of work were considered. The National Federation of State High School Associations, however, counts only statistics compiled from freshman through senior years.
That means the 573 points Vivians scored as an eighth-grader, when she averaged 17.9 points per game, do not count toward the national record. They're good in Mississippi, though.
Since her freshman year, Vivians has scored 4,420 points, ranking her fourth on the nation's all-time list. She has eight regular-season games remaining and could play as many as eight more in the playoffs, which is more than enough time to take over second place from Missy Thomas, who scored 4,506 points from 1992 to 1995 for Gibsland-Coleman (La.).
In fact, Vivians could pass Thomas on Saturday against Tupelo (Miss.) if she keeps up her pace.
Coincidentally, another senior is making her way up the all-time national record book as well. Tyra Buss, an Indiana signee from Mount Carmel (Ill.), has 4,341 points and counting and sits a few slots below Vivians, in seventh place, on the all-time list. Buss set the all-time Illinois scoring record earlier this season.
The one thing that could potentially stop Vivians is if she suffers an injury, but that has never happened despite the physical pounding she takes. She has never missed a game in her prep career.
Vivians led her team to a state title as a freshman -- averaging 24.7 points -- and again as a junior, winning tournament MVP honors both times.
She led the nation in scoring as a sophomore (37.0), earning the distinction as Mississippi's Gatorade Player of the Year.
As a junior, she finished second in the nation in scoring (39.7), and was named Mississippi's Miss Basketball.
This season, she is averaging 12.2 rebounds and 4.5 steals on a 16-3 team and is well on her way to earning all-state honors for the fourth straight year.
Part of what has made her so good is the routine Harrison has set up during Scott Central's practices, with the starters playing five against eight. Naturally, three of those eight defenders are assigned to guard Vivians, which gets her accustomed to the defenses she has seen regularly since her sophomore year.
Holly Hendershot, a 6-0 junior center who starts for Scott Central, was shocked when Harrison instituted the five-on-eight practices two years ago.
"I thought we would never get Victoria open, but we do," said Hendershot, who often finds herself waiting for offensive rebounds that never come. "We set screens for her, and sometimes we grab [defenders'] jerseys so that they can't get to her."
Hey, whatever works. But once Vivians gets that split-second of daylight, she almost always makes her opponents pay.
Case in point was last season against Lake (Miss.), when Vivians got fouled and shot the ball as she hit the deck.
The ball went in and the basket counted.
Last Friday against Newton (Miss.), Vivians made another stunning play. While being triple-teamed, she was pushed to the floor but kept her dribble, bouncing the ball while on one knee.
Vivians doesn't just make spectacular plays, she produces mind-boggling games. Against Lake last year, she scored a career-high 62 points in a 69-67 win. Last week, she challenged that mark before settling for 55 points in a 70-63 win over Newton (Miss.).
Harrison said Vivians averages about a dozen free throws a game but could shoot twice that many if every legitimate foul were called.
"[The referees] let a lot go," he said. "She is not catered to -- she gets roughhoused. I don't know how many players would maintain a level head. I'm not saying she likes it, but she keeps the same expression on her face."
Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer can't wait for Vivians to arrive in Starkville next season for what could be the Vic & Vic Show.
In the meantime, he has enjoyed following Vivians' exploits.
Coincidentally, while he was at Texas A&M, Schaefer helped recruit McGowen.
Not that he sees much comparison between the high school careers of McGowen and Vivians.
"McGowen played at a little-bitty school," Schaefer said. "Victoria is quite different. She already has a pro body, has big-time range out to 30 or 35 feet and can handle herself in the paint. Her future is incredible."
Vivians, who is interested in studying business and would like to be a coach after she is done playing, is a vocalist in her parish choir and the captain of her basketball team.
She hasn't had anyone guard her one-on-one since early in her sophomore season.
But by game's end, it's her opponents who are begging for mercy.
"I've had girls ask me to slow down," Vivians said. "Usually they just say: 'Please stop shooting.' "
With records to set and titles to win, there's no shot of that.