By Russell Cooks
There is a saying that when the second child or the second generation masters a skill or a craft, they are “a chip off the old block.” Well, what do you call the third child of a family that is just flooded with high sports IQ and an athletic gene pool that is just all the charts? You could call that person “a chip off the Toles block.” That’s exactly what Kasey Toles is.
A family of high caliber athletes
The father, Alvin, played fullback and linebacker at the University of Tennessee and was drafted as a linebacker in the first round by the New Orleans Saints in 1985. He played 55 games in four seasons with the Saints. One of his highlights was returning a blocked punt for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers in 1987.
The mother, Vicky, played shooting guard for Hiawassee College where she averaged 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. She finished her college degree at the University of New Orleans.
The older sister, Morgan, led Sandy Creek High School to the Elite 8 as a fearless point guard and went to play point guard for Auburn University and Florida State. Now, she is completing her Master’s Degree and is working as an assistant coach at FSU, as well doing radio and color commentary for the FSU Network, with an aim of becoming a college basketball coach. While playing at Auburn, she made the SEC All-Freshman Team. At Florida State her senior year, she was described as “She enjoyed a strong season as a ball distributor in her first full year of action as a ‘Nole. She had a fantastic assist to turnover ratio at 2.3, finishing first in the ACC and among the best in the country.” She averaged 5.4 points, and 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. Her 127 assists tied her twelfth on Florida State’s single season list. She finished her FSU and Auburn career with 405 total assists, which would have technically placed her at third on Florida State’s career list.
The older brother, Andrew, posted a standout career at Sandy Creek. As a senior, he hit .510 with a pair of home runs and 25 stolen bases as a senior. He was a fourth round selection by the Florida Marlins in 2010 Major League Baseball Draft. However, he decided to play baseball for the University of Tennessee, where he was ranked as the 27th best freshman by Baseball America. Andrew was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the third round of the 2012 draft, and he was recently picked up by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Her uncle, Johnnie Jones, is the fourth leading rusher in University of Tennessee history, and he played for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League.
Clearly, the Toles family has a rich history of excellence in a variety of sports. Now, it is Kasey’s turn to write the next chapter in the Toles history nook.
Kasey’s Village Effect
Keep in mind that Kasey won’t be alone on this journey. She has and will always will have the full support of her parents, her siblings, her uncle, the Georgia Metros AAU Team, BBall 101, and her Sandy Creek Family. Man oh man, what a village!!
As you can probably imagine, the parents laid the foundation for Kasey. Asked how her parents contributed to her development, Kasey says,“My parents started to make me work out when I was in the second grade. My dad had this exercise bike that he used when he played with the New Orleans Saints. The bike was used to help us get faster and build endurance and they made it mandatory that all the kids had to ride it.”
There was an example of hard work she picked up on.
“I watched my dad train my sister and brother. When they were pulling tires and running hills, I was right there watching them. I saw first hand the level of commitment that it took to be a successful athlete. My mom started training me when I was in elementary school.”
Alvin adds, “It was the perfect storm for us. I knew the discipline and commitment that it took from playing football at a high level, and my wife knows the game of basketball in and out. So, Kasey had the best of both worlds.”
Kasey appreciates the contributions her siblings made to her development as an athlete. “My brother and sister also pushed me to get better,” she says, remembering, “When I was little, my sister was on a really good AAU team (The Georgia Metros), and they allowed me to train and practice with them. My sister would also go to trainers like Matt Huddleston of the Georgia Metros and Dorian Lee(www.bball101.com), and I would be on the side trying to copy all of the drills that my sister was doing. I really learned a lot from Morgan.
“I also was able to see some of the top players in the nation play against each at the AAU Tournaments. I got to watch stars like and Mya Moore (#1 pick in 2011 WNBA Draft), Brittany Griner (#1 pick in 2013 WBNA Draft), and Skylar Diggins( #3 pick in 2013 WNBA Draft).
“Oh, my brother! When I would train with Andrew, he was always doing something with speed and agility. It has always been hard to please him. He pushes me harder than anyone in the family. ”
Morgan says, “I am very hard on my sister. I want her to know that I just want the best for her. I want her to accomplish all her goals on and off the court. I really want her to understand the balance between basketball and academics. She must really get the balance if she is going to play at the next level. Kasey is a skilled player and she must continue to push herself everyday.”
With such a support system, what else could she possibly need? When you have goals and aspirations to succeed at a high level, you must commit the time, energy, and money to get the best training available, and that is just what the Toles have done for Kasey. She not only has one trainer, she has two of the best trainers in the state of Georgia in Dorian Lee and Matt Huddleston. She has also attended basket camps at Auburn University and Florida State University.
Dorian Lee describes her by saying, ”Kasey has a great motor like her sister, Morgan, but she is a better shooter. Kasey is pure shooter in the vein of Jordan Lyons and Kobe Bryant. She can absolutely light it up from the floor. Whereas, Morgan was a pure playmaker.
“She has a tremendous work ethic. Now, she has to continue working on individual parts of her game. She must learn to move without the ball. She must learn to set the table for her teammates. She definitely has playmaking ability. She must continue to make the right plays at the right time,” Lee adds. “Kasey is getting looks from the low and mid-major schools now, but, as she continues to develop and improve her leadership skills, the sky is the limit. She is tough and she likes to play physical.”
In addition to training Kasey, Lee also trained Morgan while she was at Sandy Creek, and he currently trains Jordan Lyons of McIntosh and Christian Turner of Sandy Creek.
When Morgan exposed Kasey to the Georgia Metros AAU Team, she wasn’t just exposing her to a basketball team, she made her a part of a movement, she became a member of a family. The Georgia Metros have helped their players to receive 400-plus college scholarships and 30 of their former players are now coaching. One of the must gratifying moments came when Tessah Holt, an assistant coach at Austin Peay University, called Morgan Toles about recruiting Kasey. The relationship has come full circle. Tessah played for Fayette County High School while Morgan played for Sandy Creek. However, they became teammates for the Georgia Metros during their junior year and now, seven-plus years later, Tessah is trying to recruit Morgan’s little sister. What a powerful support system that has been developed for Kasey.
Matt Huddleston, co-director for the Georgia Metros, left a college coaching position to come back to the Georgia Metros and provide individual training for budding stars like Kasey Toles. Huddleston says, “I have known Kasey since she was a little girl. Kasey clearly understands that you don’t excel by luck. She is definitely willing to put in the work.
“I remember one time that Kasey wanted to workout, and we could not get access to a gym. Kasey put on a long sleeve shirt and we went and worked out in 50 degree weather until about 10:30. We found an outdoor court somewhere in Fayetteville or Tyrone and she grinded it out for three-plus hours. We had many outdoor sessions. Kasey is really committed to being great.”
Because she comes from a family of high caliber athletes, her parents and her siblings understand what it takes to achieve high goals. She gets support versus push back.
“This summer is very critical to Kasey’s development. The summer of her junior year is when she will leapfrog from low to mid-major to the big programs .During the school year, she will get a chance to develop her leadership skills and develop her mental approach to the game. Then this summer ,she will be playing with top 20 Female Athletes. It will be more of a college level, “ says Huddleston.
Alvin says, “Kasey is getting better and better every year. She has worked so hard and it is coming together. She is taking three-pointers off the dribble, and she is learning to attack the basket for a layup or dish out to her teammates. She will have attacking the basket mastered by the summer.”
The Next Phase
Kasey could not play her sophomore year on the Sandy Creek varsity team last season because she transferred from Arlington Christian School. Well, the wait has been well worth it. Kasey was selected as a team captain by coach Shon Dodson, and she is leading the team with 18.15 points a night, and she also contributes 2.23 rebounds 4.46 assists and 2.92 steals.
The future for Sandy Creek girls basketball is really bright. They have already eclipsed the win total from all of last season.
First and foremost, it is a team that is made of juniors and freshman. There is only one sophomore and zero seniors. The team is led by juniors Morghan Currie, Dominique Fuller, and Toles. Curry is still not participating at a maximum level because she is coming back from a knee surgery that wiped out most of last season. They get contributions throughout the roster whether it’s Ky’anah Snypes or Amara Owoh or another Lady Patriot.
One very bright spot on the team is Logan Bolton, Coach Dodson’s prized pupil. Dodson says, “I have been working with Logan for three years now. When we first started, all she was a six-foot tall cheerleader. Now, she is contributing tremendously each and every game from a rebounding and defensive standpoint. Logan had her breakout gaming scoring against Lovejoy. Logan scored a season-high 11 points and Kasey had 9 assists.”
Logan summarizes Toles’ impact saying,” Kasey brings a lot of good influence to the team. Her high basketball IQ and superior decision-making makes the team better. It makes the team want to get on her level of basketball intelligence so that we can hang with her and contribute. She’s always giving us the open looks and seemingly impossible passes that we’re learning to be ready for which in turn ultimately makes us a better and more cohesive team.”
Nina Lum is a freshman with a great deal of promise. Dodson says, “I am truly excited about her getting to play with Kasey for two years. There is a lot that Nina can learn from Kasey as we build a competitive brand of girls basketball at Sandy Creek.”
Coach Dodson has a dilemma. He needs each and every point that Kasey can contribute, but he realizes that in order for the team to have long term success, she must get her teammates involved. Dodson says, “When the ball is not in her hand, it is foreign to her. She must learn to flow when she doesn’t have the ball. The game against Lovejoy is living proof of what can happen when she gets her teammates involved. It will also eliminate the other teams desire to double and triple-team Kasey. Believe me, the other teams are quickly recognizing who our best player is. If Kasey will continue to be an aggressive scorer and get her teammates involved, the sky is the limit for her.”
There is that saying again. Trainer Dorian Lee said it. Matt Huddleston of the Georgia Metros said it. And now Coach Shon Dodson is saying, “the sky is the limit for Kasey Toles”.
I also asked Sandy Creek star point guard, Christian Turner what advice would he give Kasey. Turner says, “She has got to learn to get her teammates involved. The talent around her in high school isn’t the same as it is in AAU, but she must find a way to get them involved and build their confidence. I have actually known Kasey a long time. I met her at Dorian’s when we were younger. She has the potential to be superstar.”
Kasey is definitely getting the message about making her teammates better and getting them involved in the game. Bolton says, “It’s definitely a good feeling when you have a point guard on the floor that isn’t always looking to make the play herself but will always look for the open man first. Almost all of my high-scoring games were from excellent passes and assists from Kasey. She’s improved my game by unknowingly teaching me to always be alert. Whether it’s for the dish off of the ball when she drives in and gets defenders to collapse on her or whether the defense has a hole that she spots and sends a bullet pass directly to you without even having to look at you, she’s teaching me to always expect the ball even when I think she’s got it handled. My growth skill wise is due to my coaching and training, but all of my basketball IQ growth I owe to my teammates, Kasey in particular.”
Bolton goes on to say, “Sometimes Kasey used to be the only girl on our basketball team to come in for the optional 6:30 a.m. workouts during all of preseason. Kasey actually came to the optional morning workout on the first day of school. If that doesn’t show true dedication, I don’t know what does. And I truly admire her for it. Kasey’s got a serious ‘get it done’ demeanor on the court, but a fun and personable attitude off the court. She knows when it’s time to get your head in the game and when it’s okay to relax and sit back. She’s taken over the captain role without having to actually acquire the title by her encouraging her teammates and always giving pointers and tips to ultimately benefit our game. I know Kasey’s gonna go far in life from her superior work ethic and pleasant and approachable demeanor. I look forward to laughing with her and the team on the bus rides back from away games and joking about all the things that happened during the game. I love her like a sister and can’t wait to see her succeed in life.”
Yes, Kasey Toles is definitely a “chip off the Toles block.”