By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You would be hard-pressed to find a women’s basketball player having a better first season on the floor than Philadelphia University redshirt freshman center Tori Arnao.
An Archbishop Wood product, Arnao is averaging a double-double for the 12-12 Lady Rams, 11.3 points and 12.3 rebounds. That rebounding number has her ranked fifth in the nation in Division II.
Arnao says the scope of her success this season has even exceeded her expectations.
“I knew as a freshman I was going to help out, make a contribution,” Arnao tells KYW Newsradio. “I didn’t know my contributions were going to be this high. It’s a great accomplishment, I’m glad I’m able to help the team out in any aspect I can.”
Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Tori Arnao:
This success is even more impressive when you consider what Arnao has had to overcome to get on the floor for Philadelphia University.
“In the beginning of the year (2011-12 season) I got my left meniscus torn, so I got that taken care of,” Arnao says. “Then right when I was done my rehab and I started summer league, I found out I tore my right (meniscus). I just figured get it checked out, be safe, and I was right. So I said, I have three months, I’m going to get it done and be ready for the season and I was.”
Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Tom Shirley:
Philadelphia University head coach Tom Shirley says Arnao getting back, ready to go for this season was no accident.
“Nobody worked harder, her rehabilitation was daily, our trainers were great with her,” Shirley tells KYW Newsradio. “And I think it was her persistence and determination that put her back on the floor.”
Arnao has had a 21-rebound performance this season (November 10th against Lincoln) and she has pulled down 17 boards in a game on three separate occasions. She has amassed double-figure rebounds in 18 of her 23 contests and her 13 double-doubles is tied for the 6th highest total in the country in Division II. The Newtown, Pennsylvania, native is listed at six-feet tall, but she says success on the glass is about much more than height.
“I think you just have to have that edge, and that instinct like I’m going to get this ball every time,” Arnao says. “You have to jump for the ball, you can’t just let it come into your hands, you want to want the ball and bring it down. Getting every rebound is probably one of the most important things, just get another possession, get another run of your plays, get another basket.”
Shirley is looking forward to having three more seasons of Arnao under the basket.
“I just keep saying to her now, ‘You keep bailing us out just like (2011-12 Colonial Athletic Collegiate Conference Player of the Year Christine) Wooding did back in the day, and I think your growth potential could make you an all-timer at Philadelphia University’ and I really believe that.”
Arnao and the Lady Rams have qualified for the upcoming CACC Tournament, but they still have two regular season games remaining before that, starting with Saturday when they visit Wilmington.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.