At first glance, even Tim Toro seemed a little shocked when he heard his name announced as the Most Valuable Player for the Abington Heights Holiday boys basketball tournament.

The 6-foot, 8-inch sophomore scored a game-high 17 points to lead the host Comets to a 66-32 rout of Meyers in the championship game on Friday, Dec. 27, certainly strong enough credentials for earning such an honor. But with all-state player J.C. Show as a teammate, one tends to expect Show to claim everything.

“At first, I was surprised,” Toro said. “But now, looking back at it, after all the hard work I’ve done, I felt I deserved it.”

So did Comets coach Ken Bianchi.

“I wasn’t surprised. Defensively, he’s a force,” Bianchi said. “He had 15 rebounds in one game, 17 points in the other, and he’s averaging a double-double [points and rebounds].”

As a freshman, Toro emerged as a key player coming off the bench for the Comets, who made a deep run in the state playoffs. Freshmen don’t often get much playing time at a school like Abington Heights, a longtime power in the area, but Toro forced his way onto the floor.

“I remember our opener last year with Holy Cross, and somebody got in foul trouble,” Bianchi said. “We put him in against Josh Kosin, a tough kid, and played hard, really battled. We knew we had found a third inside guy.”

As that season went on, Bianchi explained that it was apparent that Toro had talent, but that he was a little too anxious at times.

“The game has slowed down to him this year,” Bianchi said. “Last year, he was too quick; he’d make his moves before he had the ball. We saw he was a battler, had good size, was aggressive, able to rebound, block shots and play defense. We knew his offense would take some time, but he has settled down.”

Instead of resting on his laurels, Toro made sure to continue growing his basketball skills, intent on remaining a key cog in the Comets machine.

“I worked on my shooting, my post moves, driving the lane and the baseline,” Toro said. “Last year, I was more of a one-move player, get it and go right up with it.”

“He’s probably been the tallest kid on his team, so he didn’t have to expand his game,” Bianchi said. “He has to do that now.”

Toro’s game has kept evolving, getting better in every aspect of the game, trying to do the little things that will make him a better player.

“I’ve tried to make myself stronger in the lane, with the ability to go up stronger and tougher,” Toro said. “I worked on my shot, distance and footwork. I’m comfortable from 15 feet and in.”

“This year he has come on. We knew he had potential, and he’s been a blessing,” Bianchi said. “He can kick out to the free throw line; he’s gotten better at that. He had to learn to slow down, and now he’s got a nice drop step, an up-and-under move. He and Evan [Maxwell] work the high-low [post] well together.

“Last year he was a defensive force,” Bianchi said. “Now opponents have to account for him on both ends of the floor.”

Toro followed up his MVP performance with a solid game in the Comets’ battle against rival Scranton Prep in a battle of unbeaten teams on Saturday, Jan. 4. The sophomore went for 13 points and 12 rebounds as Abington Heights survived in overtime, 58-52.

He knows he has qualities that will make the Comets better, and is more patient about doing what he needs to do, but is humble enough to realize where he fits in the grand scheme of things as a first-year starter fitting in with one of the best players in the state, the Bucknell-bound Show.

“What we’re trying to do … if we focus on playing team basketball and playing hard, we feel we can accomplish our goals together,” Toro said. “[Starting] is a not a big adjustment, it just means a little more playing time, that’s all.”

Bianchi appreciates what Toro has done for the Comets, as do college coaches who have come to see Show or other players. Toro has already made impressions on college coaches, who can see his talent and are often surprised to find out he’s so young.

“After games, coaches will come up to me and say, ‘Who’s that kid?’ When I tell them he’s a sophomore, they tell me they’ll be looking at him,” Bianchi said. “That’s how it happens. I’ve had guys come over, at a game where they’re looking at somebody from the other team, asking about him. It happens that way sometimes. As long as they keep

coming.”

Halfway into his sophomore season, Toro is already on the radar of college coaches, eagerly waiting to see him develop even further. Based on his first 40 or so games in high school, and his willingness to do the hard work to improve all facets of his game, the sky’s the limit for Toro, who may remember his MVP performance at the Abington Heights Holiday tournament as the first of many such efforts.