VU's Jarosz takes swagger from NY to SEC

Vanderbilt freshman post Tori Jarosz (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.) has a nickname to shake, one that's followed her since junior high. The 6-3 former Lakeland High School center is not "The Franchise," at least not in a college environment where she is yet unproven. But this girl got game, and she quotes Kobe Bryant in a way that you believe she will push herself to be the best she can be.

Tori, whose last name is pronounced Ja-rows, is a little embarrassed that the long-time moniker is public via YouTube and getting fresh hits now that she's at Vandy.

A music video on the social media site uses an original rap song crooning her praises as "The Franchise" while she runs the court, scoring at will. Rapper Choc-Ty sings the lyrics written by a former trainer who tasted music business success in California.

When asked about the video, she responds, "Oh God. It's one of those videos that looks like I'm out to toot my own horn. It's not the case actually. I'm here to tell everybody my trainer gave me that nickname when I was a freshman and it stuck. People on my AAU team called me that, people on my high school team and at school called me that.

My trainer was like, ‘I want to write a song about you,' and I was saying, ‘don't do that.' He was like, ‘nah, I'm gonna write it and it's gonna be cool.' He put the song with a video I made at a camp when I was a sophomore, and it looks like I put this together myself, but I had nothing to do with it. It was just spur of the moment and all for fun."

The daughter of a Ukrainian father who lived in Germany until moving to Brooklyn, and a German-heritage mother who speaks the language fluently, Tori also shares the strength of her parents' athleticism.

"Mom came from a family of competitive swimmers. They grew up on a lake and they were big into swimming and water sports. My dad came to the U.S. and lived in Brooklyn. He played baseball but my grandparents didn't know how to get him involved on a bigger scale. He was really good and is very athletic."

Those genes evidently helped Tori's recovery as she was out six months with a stress fracture in a lower vertebra. When she returned – she set a record for the most points ever scored at Lakeland in one game.

"I played in pain for the rest of the season, but I'm one of those people who hate to sit out when you know you can help and make an impact. That's what really cut me deep. I wanted to come back as soon as I could."

The New Yorker averaged 21.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 7.6 blocks per game as a junior, while playing with that pain. (Senior stats are unavailable at this time).

Tori, who unofficially visited the campus in January 2009 to see Vandy beat LSU 75-67, liked what she saw so much so that she verbally committed early (March 2009) and turned her back on pursuit from prominent programs like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, West Virginia, DePaul and Marist. The SEC's Auburn and Kentucky were interested as well.

"I felt this was the best opportunity for me. I love the level of competition in the SEC. In my opinion, it's one of the toughest conferences in the nation. To be able to play at that level is a blessing."

The Kobe Bryant fan has memorized one of the renowned Laker's quotes to keep her motivated with confident focus on her game: "Love me or hate me, it's one or the other. Always has been. Hate my game, my swagger, hate my fade away, hate my hunger, hate that I'm a veteran, a champion. Hate that; hate it with all your heart, but know that I'm loved for the same exact reasons."

Swagger – it's part of the SEC, but not usually seen in a black and gold uniform. Tori laughs at the encouragement to bring it. "Everybody in there (pointing to the locker room) has a swagger. We wouldn't be here if we didn't. We're classy, though!"

Tori hits a layup during a recent pickup game.

The 6-3 post holds position against pickup competition.

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