For The Tribune

Toby VanLiew has several reasons he chose to play his collegiate basketball at Indiana University Kokomo.

He said he looked at colleges in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio but chose IU Kokomo for its location among other things.

“It’s close to home so my family can go see me play,” VanLiew said Wednesday while signing the papers at Trinity Lutheran High School.

He wants to major in business and he said that school had a lot to do with his choice.

“The deciding factor in IU Kokomo was it’s an IU degree, which is good for business,” VanLiew said. “I’ve had IU Kokomo in mind for a couple months.”

VanLiew said he visited the school once during the winter, he attended a basketball game on another visit, and he visited another time to take his placement test.

Kokomo is a member of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, along with Indiana University Southeast and Indiana East Richmond.

“I think they are going to put me as a ‘4’ man, which in their offense does a lot of pass break screen and rolls,” VanLiew said. “I’ll do whatever. At Trinity I would run down the floor at the ‘5’ or just go back screen for somebody and try to get an opening from there. If not we would just set up our offense and I thought it was a good fit for me.”

Last winter VanLiew scored 285 points for an average of 11.9 per game in helping the Cougars to record of 18-6. His high games were 22 against Henryville and 20 against Medora.

He scored 323 points his junior year, and that places his fourth on the single-season point list at Trinity. On other career lists he ranks sixth in points (676), fourth in field goals (255), fifth in free throws (151) and tie for sixth in assists with 95.

The senior received two Cougar Awards and two most improved awards at Trinity.

The Cougars were 16-7 in 2013-14 and won the Springs Valley Sectional.

IU Kokomo has one of the newer men’s college basketball program in Indiana, going into only its fifth season.

The Cougars, of Kokomo, were 10-20 last winter.

Both Trinity coach Aaron Rudzinksi and Kokomo coach Jace Thompson said they feel VanLiew can help turn the program around.

“I think he’s got a good skill set that translates to the college game because he’s got good height (6-foot-8) that will help him, and good ball handling skills and sees the floor really well, and he can rebound his position too,” Rudzinski said.

“He has a lot to give and provide to a team like that. He’s also getting better at his outside shooting that he’s shown in the last year. He did what we asked him to do. Going into this year we asked him to shoot more from the outside and be more of an outside threat, and I think he was second on our team in assists, and second in rebounds so basically he contributed from just about everywhere.

One of the things Rudzinski wants to see is for VanLiew to put on weight.

“I’d say that could definitely help him,” Rudzinski said. “He needs to probably put a good 20 or 30 pounds on in the next couple years to really get to that position to really help them with the physical play of college basketball.”

Thompson looks forward to working with VanLiew soon.

“Toby brings a lot of ability to our program,” Thompson said. “We like to shoot the ball from the 3-point line. Obviously, having a player outside with his height that can shoot it from outside is going to very good for our system, along with he’s a high IQ player.

One of the things the collegiate coach noticed was VanLiew’s ability to stretch the floor.

“He’s a really good passer for his size,” Thompson said. “We have a couple good ‘back to the basket’ centers, but we need that stretch 4 that can shoot the 3-pointer and go inside, so the four man is really one of the most important positions in our offense. Having him come along over the next two, three years is going to be huge the way he can shoot the ball, pass the ball and he can handle the ball outside, for a big guy, pretty well.

IU Kokomo joined the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) three years ago, and joined the KIAC two years ago.

“I enjoyed the great atmosphere we had at Trinity,” VanLiew said. “The crowd gets so into it and I just love it, and when we played in the sectionals we always brought a big crowd.

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.