While attending Christ the King High School, Toussaint was known for her excellence on the basketball court and in the classroom. After all, a big part of why she chose Virginia was their academic acclaim, which has them tied for 24th in the 2017 National University Rankings.
Toussaint admits to having actually struggled in the classroom (only because of the way her expectations are set-up), and had something of a wake-up call in her first semester of hitting the books.
“This one just smacked me in my face,” the 5-foot-9 guard said with a laugh. “I knew it was going to be a challenge but it really caught me off guard. You can’t have the same habits you had in high school, like waiting last minute and kind of just expecting everything to come to you easy.
“I kind of just stuck with old habits too long in that semester and it caught up with me toward the end,” she added. “My teammates helped me through it.”
Academically, Virginia is absolutely a premier institution in the country, and for student-athletes, it was success across the board last year as the Cavaliers had 339 recognized in the 2015-16 ACC Academic Honor Roll.
Toussaint simply wanted to live up to that billing, as difficult as it may appear on the surface.
“I don’t want to let anybody down; I didn’t want to let the team down,” she told this newspaper. “Last year I think we had the best GPA average as a team for the whole academic athletic system.
“Everybody’s on me,” she continued. “ They would say ‘if she messes up, everybody messes up.’ It makes us even closer together, and I’m not even worried about it anymore because I know my team is going to have my back.”
On the court, the 2016 Gatorade New York State Player of the Year is one of two freshmen starters on the Virginia (13-6, 2-4 ACC) squad. The other is coincidentally 2016 Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year guard Jocelyn Willoughby.
Toussaint has started every game and currently averages around nine points and three assists per contest, the latter of which leads the team.
She’s already hit 10 or more points on double-digit occasions, highlighted by a season-high 17 in a win over Dayton to close out non-conference play on December 29.
Known for her defensive prowess in high school, the two-way guard felt “well prepared” for the next level, thanks to her time in the hyper-competitive AAU Circuit and, of course, Christ the King.
She also competed at last May’s Team USA U18 trials, in which she also learned a valuable lesson in her short time there.
“The only thing I really took away from that camp was that you can’t fly by with one aspect of your game,” she said. “You have to encompass a whole thing and you just have to bring the whole package otherwise you get exposed.
“Our pre-season here in Virginia was really vigorous,” she said. “They got on us, but then it was easy to know what to expect coming into the season. I feel really confident with the team right now. I’m proud of them to be honest.”
Everybody needs something to lean on, and a quality student-athlete is no exception. Toussaint praised her support system, and also cited another key component to her making the decision to leave for Charlottesville was the “family” atmosphere.
“I feel like the support staff is impeccable, I couldn’t ask for more,” Toussaint said. “I feel like the coaches took on that parenting role, kept me on track and made me feel like I wasn’t just by myself and coming from the city.
“My parents make the effort to come down and see some games, maybe even go to away games, so it’s not like I don’t see them at all too,” she added.
In regards to her connection with her high school teammates and coaches, Toussaint admitted to not keeping up consistently with her old mates, but she does reach out on occasion and insists the connection is outstanding.
Keeping up with everyone after you move on is different, but there is comfort for the UVA starter that everyone at King is simply one call away.
“I know that if I call them they’re going to pick-up and be happy to hear my voice and the same thing if they call me I’m going to be happy to hear them,” she said with a smile. “I know some people fall off after they graduate but our group is pretty close. Three of us are in the ACC, so we’re going to see each other anyway!”
Moving forward, Toussaint’s focus sits with the progress of this young but talented Virginia squad, which currently has only one senior on the roster. The Blue and Orange were voted to finish 10th out of 15 teams in the preseason ACC poll.
“I’m not really focusing on individual accolades and things like that,” Toussaint said. “I’m just trying to stay focused and contribute to the team right now because that’s my role as a freshman. I’m focused on the wins I can get as a team right now.”
As for that helicopter she used to get to Christ the King from Staten Island on a daily basis, it’s parked, and not necessary to have at Virginia, she says (jokingly of course).
“I actually don’t need it surprisingly,” Toussaint said with a laugh. “I left it in my backyard you know, it’s under a tarp and everything so nobody steals it.”
Toussaint and the Hoo’s return to action on Thursday, January 26 in a home contest against Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. on the ACC Network. This coming Sunday, UVA goes National as they’ll travel to Indiana for a date with Notre Dame at noon on ESPN U.
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY.