The average high school commute is somewhere around 30-35 minutes or so for students. The average work commute isn’t too far removed, about a 25-30 minute trip.
Dominique Toussaint made a two-hour trip from her Staten Island home to Christ the King High School every day for four years.
She’s now leaving the Middle Village landmark having won several coveted awards, including Miss Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year for New York State.
“I take my helicopter, you know, they fly me over then I jump down from my parachute,” Toussaint joked of her travel to school. “Of course it wears me out, I’m tired every morning. One time I was in the Dean’s office just sitting under a couch and I ended up falling asleep for a good hour; I was taking a full nap in the Dean’s office! I’m always tired, but it’s worth it.”
The 5-foot-10 guard originally wanted to play for the St. Peter’s girls’ team in her home borough, but the school closed down in 2011. As she began to look outside of Staten Island, she eventually found the famed Christ the King institution.
“It has a great balance of academics and athletics, and their athletic program, I think it’s the best in the city,” she said. “I did a rubric sheet of doing like academics, location, the basketball program and it just beat everybody, so I’m like ‘yeah, this is the school!”
Christ the King girls basketball head coach Bob Mackey referred to Toussaint as one of the hardest-working kids they’ve ever had in the program. Mackey cited former Royals Tina Charles, Sue Bird and Chamique Holdsclaw as stars early on, whereas Toussaint became one over time in spite of her early troubles, which nearly resulted in a premature departure from CTK.
“When Sue Bird walked into the door she was a star, it was a matter of just keeping that work ethic,” Mackey said. “Tina Charles was a star as a sophomore in high school and was therefore anointed as the basketball player in New York City. Dominique wasn’t. Dominique came in as a freshman and we had some injuries. She got moved up all because she was so athletic; she struggled (as a freshman).
“Sophomore year, a little better – still wasn’t showing signs of what we all thought she was going to do,” coach Mackey continued. “Her parents were frustrated with her lack of effort. Dominique was told ‘well, if you’re not going to work you should transfer, you should probably go back to Staten Island because you’re just not getting it.’”
Toussaint remained at King, and stepped up to the challenge, putting forth a season for the ages. Toussaint won Queens Player of the Year, and was a First Team All-State selection. As a junior she averaged 21.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while aiding CTK to the state Federation “AA” finals.
Before her senior season, Toussaint committed to the University of Virginia. She cites the school’s “beautiful” campus and facilities, as well as their high standard of academics as reasons for choosing UVA, where she says she’ll likely pursue a degree in business.
“Why wait if you know what school you want to go to without a doubt? I wouldn’t want to keep other schools waiting around,” she said of her early decision. “I don’t want to waste their money going on visits to go see their school just so they could feed me. I knew what school I wanted to go to toward the end of the summer, and I just let everyone know.
“I feel like the academics match Ivy League schools,” she continued. “I just want to be able to say I have a Virginia degree because I know it’ll mean something. Sometimes I feel like basketball is a means for me to get a college education, and I could have a little fun while I do it.”
Last summer before Toussaint committed to UVA, coach Mackey went to watch her play, as a spectator, at Nike Nationals. The shut-down defender had an impressive showing, and made improvements in the all-around facets of her game, which caught the attention of legendary UConn head coach Geno Auriemma.
“Geno’s line to me was, ‘your girl put on quite a show in there, I think we might have to get serious and talk,’” Mackey said. “I talked to her parents and I talked to her and asked ‘what do you want to do?’ she said ‘I’m comfortable where I am,’ (I said) ‘okay, great, but it’s Geno, it’s Connecticut.’
“They never offered but he really liked the way she played and that was quite a statement when you hear the top coach in women’s college basketball say that,” he added. “You hope everybody does well in college, I think she’s going to do very well at Virginia.”
The path to eminence rarely comes easy. Toussaint’s junior year proved to be an excellent one, which raised the expectation level of everyone for her forthcoming senior year.
“Starting my senior year, it was a struggle, I wanted to quit. I thought ‘I cannot do this,’” Toussaint said. “The beginning of senior year was really hard, it’s always really hard right after you do really well because you have to try to keep it up.”
While winning Miss Basketball (NY), Gatorade Player of the Year (NY), and NYSSWA Class “AA” Player of the Year, Toussaint averaged nearly 20 points, close to seven rebounds, and well over three assists per contest.
Toward the end of her senior season, Toussaint earned the prestigious honor of representing Christ the King and New York City in the Jordan Brand Classic. In the game she scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds as her Team East squad fell 100-94 to Team West.
“I was so nervous it was ridiculous. Those girls already played the McDonald’s All-American Game, they all know each other, and I’m the one out, that’s how I felt the first day,” she said of her time at Jordan Brand. “I just started practicing with them, I felt part of the group. I felt like I could play with them, I felt like I could’ve been one of the best ones there. It just helped me with my mindset knowing that there are other people just as good as I was and I just had to keep working.”
From May 28-30, Toussaint will be one of 27 athletes in training camp at the Team USA U18 National Team Trials, where 12 players will be selected to represent USA at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in July. The former Royal had also participated in the U16 and U17 trials in previous years.
“You have to work your hardest preparing for it, and once you go there you work your hardest to play to try to get a spot,” she said of her Team USA experience. “Just getting invited alone to go try out is an accomplishment in itself. I’m just going to try and do my best and whatever happens happens.”
With her ties to Team USA, competing at Jordan Brand, her commitment as a full-time student-athlete for one of the premier schools in the area, and not to mention a daily two-hour commute, one would imagine how strenuous it is to balance everything out, especially when you’re also the best player in your state.
“I’m not great at it, but I have people to help me,” Toussaint said. “Mackey, my coach, I have teachers here, they know how hard it is. My parents definitely help me, they’re my managers basically.
“Everybody just pitches in and helps me out, it’s not just me doing the hard work,” she said.
With her high school graduation drawing near, the Cavalier-to-be reflected on what she’ll miss most about her time at King.
“I’m going to miss everybody saying hi to me,” she said. “I know that’s weird, but I walk in the hallways and I feel like everybody just knows who I am. It’s just comforting, it’s home, I’m going to miss the people here. I hope it grows into the same at Virginia, but I can’t predict the future.
“I’m not That’s So Raven,” she said with a laugh.
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY