But after considering all of the factors, Tarul, a senior guard who has scored more than 1,000 points for St. John’s Prep, decided to stay home and play for the Fordham Rams.
Last Wednesday, Tarul was surrounded by family, teammates and coaches when she officially signed her letter of intent to Fordham. The Bronx native said it was the “best decision I ever made.”
“I love everything about the school. I love the staff, I love the team,” she said. “I think it’s a really good fit for me. I think I’ll do really well there.”
Tarul said a big factor in choosing Fordham was knowing that all of her supporters, including her parents, would attend games and support her along the way.
“I knew if I went far away, I wasn’t going to have a lot of people at my games,” she said. “That would’ve been rough for me because my dad and mom have not missed a lot in my life. I just needed people around me.”
The senior guard already has high expectations when her college career begins. She said she hopes to win four championships with Fordham and win at least one Player of the Year award. Looking ahead, her goal is to play basketball overseas and in the WNBA.
Reflecting on her time at St. John’s Prep, Tarul said the Astoria school shaped her into who she is today, both as a student and as an athlete.
“They set me up perfectly for my future,” she said. “I couldn’t be more ready for it.”
At the letter-signing ceremony, St. John’s Prep athletic director Danial Levent praised Tarul for representing the school “in the highest possible fashion.”
He noted that out of all high school student-athletes, only 2 percent end up playing in college. Out of that group, only 1 percent receive a full scholarship, which Tarul achieved.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” he said.
Levent said Tarul showed a work ethic that was “bar none the highest I’ve ever seen in a student-athlete.” He said she went to math tutoring before school to keep her grades up, went to practice and was a regular at the weight room, and sometimes stayed for extra practice with the boys varsity team.
“She has that intangible quality of keeping her eyes on the prize,” he said. “She had the vision the last four years and trusted herself, her coaches, her family, her teachers, everyone.”
Girls varsity head coach Michael LoCascio recalled first seeing Tarul play when she was in the fifth grade. He was coaching a team during a tournament at 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in upper Manhattan, and she played against them, dropping 35 points at just ten years old.
“She lit me up like a Christmas tree,” he said. “Nobody does that in the fifth grade.”
After that performance, LoCascio said he had his sights on coaching her in the future. An assistant coach with Christ the King’s girls varsity basketball team for 15 years, LoCascio later became the head coach at St. John’s Prep, and eventually revitalized the program with Tarul leading the way.
Two years ago, St. John’s Prep won the city championship in the A Division in the Catholic High School Athletic Association. They were then bumped up to the AA Division.
According to LoCascio, Tarul is the first player from St. John’s Prep under his tutelage who is now headed to a Division I college basketball program.
“They come along once every ten years,” he said, describing what made Tarul a special student-athlete. “The work ethic, the grades, how she compliments her teammates, how she takes responsibility even when they’re wrong.”
LoCascio choked up while speaking in front of Tarul’s family and friends at the letter-signing ceremony. He said as a coach, he becomes attached to the players to the point where they become like his own children.
“You see them more than you see your own children,” he said. “You grow this attachment, then the day comes when you have to say goodbye.
“It just hit me all at once,” LoCascio added. “Sometimes you can’t hold back your emotions.”
The St. John’s Prep coach said he will have front-row seats to Tarul’s college basketball games at Fordham. He offered her some advice before she advances to the next step in her career.
“Keep the same work ethic, never get bigger than the moment, never get bigger than your teammates,” he said. “You’ll do just fine.”
Tarul said she was nervous but excited to finally sign her letter of intent. She beamed after making the commitment to Fordham official.
“As an athlete, this is something you work for your whole life,” Tarul added. “This is what I’ve dreamed of my whole life.”