By Scott Eddy, Director of Athletics Communications | VIDEO
Mariah Ruff has a major that makes many of us less intelligent folks a little nervous just at the sound of.
A chemistry major, Ruff not only has the immense time commitment of being a Division I athlete, but also a heavy workload of class and lab work to fulfill her academic requirements.
"With any hard science major, you have to understand you're not going to get an 'A' in every class," she says. "The workload is a lot and finding the balance between doing the work in the classroom and getting in the gym can be tough."
The words are modest, especially considering Ruff has been a regular member of the University Dean's List and Atlantic 10 Commissioner's Honor Roll which reserves spots for A-10 student-athletes boasting a 3.50 GPA or better in the classroom.
And she has had the type of career on the basketball court that will leave fans and opposing players and coaches remembering her talent for years to come.
Ruff is closing what will be statistically one of the best careers in St. Bonaventure women's basketball history.
Her list of accomplishments is long. She's one of only four players in program history with over 1,000 career points and 400 assists, ranks fourth in SBU career assists, fifth in 3-pointers, 12th in scoring and 10th in double-figure point games. When all is said and done, the program record books will have her name written throughout.
This season, Ruff leads all Atlantic 10 players by averaging 19.5 points in 15 conference games. She also is second in the league in assists by averaging over five per game and is the only player in the A-10 with three 30-point performances.
One of the most heralded recruits for the program in its history, she came to St. Bonaventure after being named the 2014 Miss New York Basketball by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York. She's the first player to have taken top honors in the state as a high schooler to don the Brown and White.
While she had several offers out of Oneonta (N.Y.) High School, she chose Bonaventure because of the atmosphere at the Reilly Center and the passion for basketball the community has. Another deciding factor was the University's science program and a nearby forensics lab.
Like another generational talent for the Bonnies on the men's side, Andrew Nicholson who also started his career as a chemistry major before switching to physics, St. Bonaventure's academic program helped make the college choice easier. Post-college, Ruff has aspirations of becoming a state trooper or working in the field of forensics.
Ruff's decision to attend St. Bonaventure has unquestionably been the Bonnies' gain.
A starter from early in her freshman season, she averaged 7.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 23.0 minutes per game in 2014-15. She hasn't been out of the starting lineup since the 11th game of her freshman year.
As a sophomore, she was a key part of one of the best Bonnies teams in program history, starting every game and putting her ability to create for teammates on display with 120 assists, most for a Bonnies player in a decade.
In 2015-16, Bona went undefeated, 16-0, on home court, 24-8 overall and won 16 games in a row during the season to earn votes in the AP Top 25. After being a "bubble team," the Bonnies were rewarded with a bid to the NCAA Tournament where they knocked off Oklahoma State in the first round.
"I remember when we lost at UMass we thought we lost our chances. Then we beat Duquesne and GW at home," she said of that season. "Then getting into the tournament, we had no idea we were going to get in. It was the most exciting experience. We found out we were in on Monday, left on Wednesday. The atmosphere on campus was amazing. Then to win our first round game, that was the most incredible atmosphere."
Even during that NCAA Tournament run, classes were at the forefront of her focus.
"The professors were amazing. When we went to the round of 32, I had two labs due that week and I didn't know if I could get them done," she remembers. "My professors worked with me to make sure I got it done. I love everyone in the chemistry department. I know if I ever need anything, the people here will be there for me."
After the season, with the departure of four seniors following by a new coaching staff coming in when head coach Jim Crowley left for an opportunity at Providence, Ruff was thrown into a leadership role. And though she had the chance to leave with other programs ready to show interest, there was too much at her Bonaventure home that she would be leaving behind.
"From the get-go everyone turned to me like what are we going to do," she remembers of that summer. "I had an amazing group of friends here. The faculty and staff in the chemistry department are all great. The relationship everyone has at Bonaventure to support each other, I didn't want to leave all that. Bonaventure is family; it's just a great place. The people here want to be here and they make you feel special. Those are the things that kept me here."
Over the past two seasons, Ruff has been the unquestioned leader of a young roster. She has ranked atop the A-10 in scoring and assists while often putting on a show for fans with her passing and playmaking skills for teammates around her, not just lighting up the scoreboard herself.
In each of the past three seasons, she has dished out over 100 assists, including a career-high 138 this season. She's the first Bonnies player have that many assists in three straight seasons since Suzie Dailer did so from 1992-95.
But all the talk about numbers and just how good she has been over the past four years – those aren't topics that really interest Ruff. She'll leave that for everyone else.
"I don't think about all the numbers," she says. "As long as I give everything I have, I can walk away knowing I did the best I could do."
The numbers – and the eye test – say she has scored A's across the board.
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