If your name is Erin O’Toole, it’s apropos that St. Patrick’s Day should hold some cherished memories.
The 6-4 Hopkins senior completed her high school basketball career Saturday by helping the Royals to their third consecutive Class 4A state championship. O’Toole also was a major contributor to the Royals’ 2012 championship team, which won the title on St. Patrick’s Day. O’Toole’s younger sister Molly, a junior point guard, was also a member of that team.
“Someone told me last year that we were voted the most Irish family at the tournament,” said O’Toole while standing on the Target Center floor Saturday after her team’s victory over Bloomington Kennedy. “Molly and I on the same team. That’s pretty Irish for you.”
O’Toole talked about her time with the Hopkins program and where she goes from here.
Q: Talk about the journey to a third consecutive championship.
A: We worked so hard for this, day in, day out. Early mornings, 6 a.m. sessions where we did nothing but conditioning for hours and hours and it paid off. It’s pretty amazing, but this has always been our goal and now, here we are.
Q: What has been the most difficult part of the season?
A: Probably not getting bored. Sometimes teams win so much, they’re like “Oh, we’ll win the next one.” I think that loss to Centennial [on Jan. 8] woke us up and made us hungrier.
Q: The most rewarding thing?
A: Playing with my sister Molly. That was awesome.
Q: You earned a basketball scholarship to North Dakota. Why North Dakota?
A: I love it up there. I love the coaches, I love the people, the team is so nice. It’s the perfect fit for me.
Q: How did you get the nickname Big Country?
A: Cos [head coach Brian Cosgriff] gave me the nickname “Big Country” when I was younger. A lot of people around here know me as that. I like it. It’s funny. There could be worse nicknames.
Q: You’ve been very open about being different physically than most of the other players on the team. Talk about your path to this point.
A: I started on the Wayzata B team. I wasn’t meant to be playing where I am right now. I was a big kid, I couldn’t run, I ran weird — I was kind of weird looking. I wasn’t meant to play this sport, but I worked really hard and my sisters were there for me. I had amazing teammates and coaches who helped me out and got me into condition. I came to Hopkins and here I am now.
Q: That must have required a lot of determination.
A: Oh yeah. Running isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but you gotta do it.
Q: The end result feels pretty good?
A: It feels really good. I wanted this but, to be honest, I didn’t see myself getting here. It was my main goal and I worked for it all the time. It was a good journey. Well worth it.
Q: Is there one moment that stands out to in your career?
A: Playing with Molly and my big sister Shannon. We all were on the same team and we won a state championship together in 2011. That was amazing. We got to have that moment together.
Q: How do you feel about high school coming to an end?
A: There were some tears shed before the game, but I think I’m ready to go to the next chapter in my life.
Erin O'Toole, Hopkins basketball, sr., 2012-13