By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Mariah Ruff is taking her talents to St. Bonaventure.
Ruff, an Oneonta High senior-to-be, has made a verbal commitment to play for Division I basketball for the Atlantic 10 school in western New York.
“I really liked the coaches,” Ruff said of the program headed by Windsor graduate Jim Crowley, who also also recruited Bainbridge-Guilford graduate Courtney Mattingly to play for the Bonnies in the late 1990s. “I was looking for a coach like Mr. (Matt) Miller and I think coach Crowley is like Mr. Miller. He has his own style, but I really liked the coaching staff and the players.
“I really liked the campus and the people around it,” she continued. “It’s a small-knit community, like Oneonta.”
Ruff was a First Team all-state selection in Class B following a junior season in which she averaged 17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 3.7 steals in leading the Yellowjackets to a 20-2 season.
She had game highs of 26 points and eight assists in Oneonta’s season-ending, 55-53 state semifinal loss to an Irvington squad that went on to win its fourth straight state title, by 38 points.
“I know coach Crowley told her many times he sees her coming in as an impact player,” Oneonta High coach Miller said. “She’s not going to be a typical freshman. He plans to throw her right in there and he expects her to produce for him.”
Ruff said she got the same impression from Crowley, who guided the Bonnies to a spot into the round-of-16 in the NCAA tournament two seasons ago.
“That’s the way I took it,” Ruff said when asked if she expects to contribute right away. “I still have to work for my spot, but what will automatically help is he plays 10 players every game. All of his players are set to play every game.”
St. Bonaventure followed a 31-4 campaign – one that ended with a lopsided loss to Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 – with a 10-19 season in 2012-13.
In Ruff, Crowley will be getting a multi-talented guard who can shoot, drive, pass and defend.
“I think (Crowley) sees her (playing both guard positions) to be honest,” Miller said. “I think she’ll primarily be a point guard, but she’ll give him the freedom to move to off guard. He loves the way she shoots the ball.
“I think point guard is her natural position,” he continued. “She sees the floor well. In high school, I’ve struggled to get her to shoot the ball. She’s a pass-first player, so that’s probably the position where he’ll get the most minutes out of her.”
Miller said Ruff making this decision over the summer should allow her to focus more on basketball.
“It was very stressful for her,” Miller said of the recruiting process. “There were at least 13 schools that offered her scholarships and another 10 to 15 were pretty interested. That’s a lot for a 17-year-old kid to keep up with. She has signed, so now she doesn’t have that pressure to play well when coaches come. Next season, that will be a great thing for her.”
“The recruiting process is crazy,” she said. “In my senior year, I can focus more on soccer and basketball. When I was being recruited, I’d get phone calls for three hours a night from colleges and that takes time away from studying and being with my friends. I’m glad I made my decision.”
Ruff, also a First Team all-state selection in soccer this past academic year, became the sixth Oneonta High girl to exceed 1,000 points in the Yellowjackets’ loss to Irvington in March. She’s scored 1,008 points in an OHS uniform. Overall, she has 1,511 varsity points. She played varsity basketball for Andes as a seventh- and eighth-grader before transferring to Oneonta.
“She’s been mature about the recruiting process,” said Miller, who added the Bonnies have also received a verbal commitment from Harpursville standout Miranda Drummond. “She always put academics first. She wants to major in forensic science and basketball came next.”
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.